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Brain Imaging Behav. 2016 Dec;10(4):953-959.

Problematic internet use is associated with structural alterations in the brain reward system in females.

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Department of Neurology, University of Pécs, Pécs, Hungary.
Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology, Research Centre for Natural Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary.
Department of Neurology, University of Pécs, Pécs, Hungary.
MTA-PTE Clinical Neuroscience MR Research Group, Pécs, Hungary.
Diagnostic Centre, Pécs, Hungary.
MTA-PTE, Neurobiology of Stress Research Group, Pécs, Hungary.
Department of Neurosurgery, University of Pécs, Pécs, Hungary.
National Institute of Clinical Neurosciences, Budapest, Hungary.


Neuroimaging findings suggest that excessive Internet use shows functional and structural brain changes similar to substance addiction. Even though it is still under debate whether there are gender differences in case of problematic use, previous studies by-passed this question by focusing on males only or by using gender matched approach without controlling for potential gender effects. We designed our study to find out whether there are structural correlates in the brain reward system of problematic Internet use in habitual Internet user females. T1-weighted Magnetic Resonance (MR) images were collected in 82 healthy habitual Internet user females. Structural brain measures were investigated using both automated MR volumetry and voxel based morphometry (VBM). Self-reported measures of problematic Internet use and hours spent online were also assessed. According to MR volumetry, problematic Internet use was associated with increased grey matter volume of bilateral putamen and right nucleus accumbens while decreased grey matter volume of orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). Similarly, VBM analysis revealed a significant negative association between the absolute amount of grey matter OFC and problematic Internet use. Our findings suggest structural brain alterations in the reward system usually related to addictions are present in problematic Internet use.


Automated MRI volumetry; Brain reward system; Internet addiction; MRI; Voxel-based morphometry

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