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Psychiatry Res Neuroimaging. 2018 Sep 30;279:51-59. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2018.05.012. Epub 2018 May 28.

Gaming-addicted teens identify more with their cyber-self than their own self: Neural evidence.

Author information

1
Department of Child and Family Studies, College of Human Ecology, Seoul National University, 1 Gwanak-ro, Gwanak-gu, Seoul 151-742, Republic of Korea; Department of Diagnostic Imaging, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada.
2
Department of Diagnostic Imaging, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada; Neuroscience & Mental Health Program, Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute, Toronto, Canada; Departments of Psychology and Medical Imaging, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.
3
Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
4
Department of Education, College of Education, Seoul National University, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
5
Institute of Medical Science, Department of Psychiatry and Department of Pharmacology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada; Mood Disorders Psychopharmacology Unit, University Health Network, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.
6
Department of Child and Family Studies, College of Human Ecology, Seoul National University, 1 Gwanak-ro, Gwanak-gu, Seoul 151-742, Republic of Korea. Electronic address: ysh@snu.ac.kr.

Abstract

According to existing neuroimaging studies of social cognition, individuals use knowledge about themselves to infer the mental states of others and to mentalize in a different way when the other is perceived to be similar versus dissimilar to oneself. In this study, we examined whether adolescent boys make mental state inferences for their online game characters and whether adolescents who were diagnosed as addicted to the internet game perceived their personal game character to be similar to themselves. Twelve internet-addicted adolescents and fifteen adolescents without addiction reported whether short phrases described themselves, a well-known historical person, or their own game character while undergoing a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Different patterns of activity emerged for adolescents with internet game addiction compared to healthy adolescents when they were thinking about themselves, another person, and their game characters. Specifically, when addicted adolescents were thinking about their own game characters, more global and significant medial prefrontal (MPFC) and anterior cingulate (ACC) activations were observed, than even when compared to thinking about themselves. The ACC activation was correlated with the symptom severity. The activation patterns demonstrated that addicted adolescents were most attached to their game characters and equated their game characters to human.

KEYWORDS:

ACC; Internet addiction; Internet gaming disorder; MPFC; Self-identity; fMRI

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