Researchers in Germany have discovered a molecular variation that could shed light on the fundamental underlying causes of internet addiction.
The University of Bonn study interviewed a total of 843 people about their internet habits, with 132 of those questioned exhibiting problematic behaviour, such as a fixation on web use and a feeling of unease if made to do without.
It was shown that these subjects were more likely to be carriers of a CHRNA4 gene variation that also plays a major role in nicotine addiction and has been linked to the activation of the brain's reward system.
This demonstrates that internet addiction is a legitimate pathology, with the mutation in question shown to be more prevalent in women than men.
Dr Christian Montag, from the department for differential and biological psychology at the University of Bonn, said: "The current data already shows that there are clear indications for genetic causes of internet addiction. If such connections are better understood, this will also result in important indications for better therapies."
This comes after a study led by the Chinese Academy of Sciences earlier this year revealed that web addiction can create chemical changes in the brain akin to those experienced by people with drink and drug habits.See all the latest jobs in Science