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Brain Sci. 2012 Sep 5;2(3):347-74. doi: 10.3390/brainsci2030347.

Internet and gaming addiction: a systematic literature review of neuroimaging studies.

Author information

1
International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham NG1 4BU, UK. daria.kuss@ntu.ac.uk.
2
International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham NG1 4BU, UK. mark.griffiths@ntu.ac.uk.

Abstract

In the past decade, research has accumulated suggesting that excessive Internet use can lead to the development of a behavioral addiction. Internet addiction has been considered as a serious threat to mental health and the excessive use of the Internet has been linked to a variety of negative psychosocial consequences. The aim of this review is to identify all empirical studies to date that used neuroimaging techniques to shed light upon the emerging mental health problem of Internet and gaming addiction from a neuroscientific perspective. Neuroimaging studies offer an advantage over traditional survey and behavioral research because with this method, it is possible to distinguish particular brain areas that are involved in the development and maintenance of addiction. A systematic literature search was conducted, identifying 18 studies. These studies provide compelling evidence for the similarities between different types of addictions, notably substance-related addictions and Internet and gaming addiction, on a variety of levels. On the molecular level, Internet addiction is characterized by an overall reward deficiency that entails decreased dopaminergic activity. On the level of neural circuitry, Internet and gaming addiction led to neuroadaptation and structural changes that occur as a consequence of prolonged increased activity in brain areas associated with addiction. On a behavioral level, Internet and gaming addicts appear to be constricted with regards to their cognitive functioning in various domains. The paper shows that understanding the neuronal correlates associated with the development of Internet and gaming addiction will promote future research and will pave the way for the development of addiction treatment approaches.

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