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J Behav Addict. 2018 Dec 1;7(4):953-964. doi: 10.1556/2006.7.2018.118. Epub 2018 Dec 17.

Gender-related differences in cue-elicited cravings in Internet gaming disorder: The effects of deprivation.

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1 School of Psychology, Fujian Normal University , Fuzhou, P. R. China.
2 Institute of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Zhejiang Normal University , Jinhua, P. R. China.
3 School of Psychology and Cognitive Science, East China Normal University , Shanghai, P. R. China.
4 Department of Physics, Shanghai Key Laboratory of Magnetic Resonance, East China Normal University , Shanghai, P. R. China.
5 Department of Psychiatry and Neurobiology, Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine , New Haven, CT, USA.
6 Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling , Wethersfield, CT, USA.
7 National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Yale University School of Medicine , New Haven, CT, USA.
8 Connecticut Mental Health Center , New Haven, CT, USA.



Online gaming has become a popular leisure activity, in which males more frequently develop Internet gaming disorder (IGD) compared to females. However, gender-related neurocognitive differences have largely not been systematically investigated in IGD.


Cue-elicited-craving tasks were performed before game playing and immediately after deprivation operationalized as a forced break from gaming when the Internet was disconnected. Ninety-nine subjects with IGD (27 males and 22 females) or recreational game use (RGU; 27 males and 23 females) provided functional MRI and subjective data. Analyses investigating effects of group (IGD and RGU) × gender (male and female) at different times (pre-gaming, post-gaming, and post-pre) on cue-elicited craving and brain responses were performed. Correlations between brain responses and subjective measures were calculated.


In pre-, post-, and post-pre tests, significant gender-by-group interactions (p < .001, cluster size > 15 voxels) were observed in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Further analyses of the DLPFC cluster showed that in post-pre comparisons, results were related to less engagement of the DLPFC in IGD, especially in females. In addition, at post-test, significant interactions were observed in the caudate, as females with IGD showed greater activation as compared to those with RGU.


The results raise the possibility that women with RGU may show better executive control than men when facing gaming cues, which may provide resiliency against developing IGD; however, once they develop IGD, their gaming may impair their executive control and enhance their cravings for gaming, which may make it more difficult to quit gaming.


Internet gaming disorder; caudate; craving; dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; executive control; gender

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