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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2018 May;43(6):1364-1372. doi: 10.1038/npp.2017.283. Epub 2017 Nov 20.

Is Neural Processing of Negative Stimuli Altered in Addiction Independent of Drug Effects? Findings From Drug-Naïve Youth with Internet Gaming Disorder.

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Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.
Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA.
State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning and IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China.
Institute of Developmental Psychology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China.


Difficulties in emotion regulation are commonly reported among individuals with alcohol and drug addictions and contribute to the acquisition and maintenance of addictive behaviors. Alterations in neural processing of negative affective stimuli have further been demonstrated among individuals with addictions. However, it is unclear whether these alterations are a general feature of addictions or are a result of prolonged exposure to drugs of abuse. To test the hypothesis of altered negative affect processing independent of drug effects, this study assessed neural function among drug-naïve youth with a behavioral addiction-Internet gaming disorder (IGD). Fifty-six young adults (28 with IGD, 28 matched controls) participated in fMRI scanning during performance of a well-validated emotion regulation task. Between-group differences in neural activity during task performance were assessed using a whole-brain, mixed-effects ANOVA with correction for multiple comparisons at currently recommended thresholds (voxel-level p<0.001, pFWE<0.05). Compared to controls, youth with IGD exhibited significantly blunted neural responses within distributed subcortical and cortical regions including the striatum, insula, lateral prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate in response to negative affective cues, as well as during emotion regulation. Independent component analysis (ICA) further identified between-group differences in engagement of a fronto-cingulo-parietal network, involving decreased engagement in IGD youth relative to controls. Study findings are largely consistent with those from prior neuroimaging studies in substance-use disorders, thus raising the possibility that neural processing of negative affect may be blunted across drug and behavioral addictions independent of acute or chronic drug effects.

[Available on 2019-05-01]
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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