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Psychiatry Res Neuroimaging. 2019 Jan 30;283:145-153. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2018.11.001. Epub 2018 Nov 3.

Females are more vulnerable to Internet gaming disorder than males: Evidence from cortical thickness abnormalities.

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Department of Psychology, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua, China.
Department of Psychology, London Metropolitan University, London, United Kingdom.
Life Sciences Research Center, School of Life Sciences and Technology, Xidian University, Xi'an, Shaanxi, China.
Department of Physics, Shanghai Key Laboratory of Magnetic Resonance, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China.
Department of Psychology, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua, China; Institute of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua, China. Electronic address:



Male predominance is a well-known feature of Internet gaming disorder (IGD), with a reported male to female ratio of 3:1. Because of the overwhelming focus on males, little is known about the neural basis of sex differences in IGD, especially neuroanatomical features. Thus, investigations on sex differences with an adequate sample size are critical for improving the understanding of biological mechanisms underlying IGD.


Structural magnetic resonance imaging data were acquired from 62 IGD subjects (29 males, 33 females) and 71 recreational game users (RGUs) (37 males, 34 females) with well-matched age and education levels. Group-by-sex interaction in cortical thickness was analyzed, and the correlations between cortical thickness and addiction severity were calculated.


We detected a group-by-sex interaction in the bilateral rostral middle frontal gyri (MFG), left superior frontal gyrus (SFG), left supramarginal gyrus (SMG), right posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), and right superior parietal lobule (SPL). Post-hoc analyses revealed that, compared with same-sex RGUs, male IGD subjects had increased cortical thickness and female IGD subjects had reduced cortical thickness beside their right PCC. By contrast, male IGD subjects had reduced cortical thickness and female IGD subjects had increased cortical thickness in their right PCC. Moreover, only females showed significant negative correlations between the cortical thickness and their self-reported cravings and Internet addiction test scores.


For female IGD subjects, the reduced cortical thickness, combined with the negative correlations of addiction severities, suggests the great effect created by IGD in the brain regions. Males and females may be affected differently by IGD, with females being more vulnerable to it.


Cortical thickness; Internet gaming disorder; Sex difference

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