The Herald Scotland, 22 May 2012

A GENERATION of children risk forming an addiction to devices such as smartphones, games consoles and televisions in the way drinkers and drug users become dependent on substances.

Dr Aric Sigman, a clinical biologist and psychologist, said heavy users of "screen media" could see long-term changes in the brain due to excessive production of the chemical transmitter dopamine.

Dopamine is central to the brain's reward system and released in response to novelty and stimulation. Production is known to rise quickly when playing computer games or watching fast-paced pop videos but the chemical is also heavily linked to addictions and accelerated by drugs, including cocaine and methamphetamine.

Dr Sigman, in his research due to be presented to The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health annual conference in Glasgow today, said there was considerable potential for young users to develop problems, as screen time hits an all-time high for 10 and 11-year-olds who spend an average of 6.1 hours a day looking at such devices.

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