Neurobiological Correlates in Internet Gaming Disorder: A Systematic Literature Review


Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) is a potential mental disorder currently included in the third section of the latest (fifth) edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as a condition that requires additional research to be included in the main manual. Although research efforts in the area have increased, there is a continuing debate about the respective criteria to use as well as the status of the condition as mental health concern. Rather than using diagnostic criteria which are based on subjective symptom experience, the National Institute of Mental Health advocates the use of Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) which may support classifying mental disorders based on dimensions of observable behavior and neurobiological measures because mental disorders are viewed as biological disorders that involve brain circuits that implicate specific domains of cognition, emotion, and behavior. Consequently, IGD should be classified on its underlying neurobiology, as well as its subjective symptom experience. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to review the neurobiological correlates involved in IGD based on the current literature base. Altogether, 853 studies on the neurobiological correlates were identified on ProQuest (in the following scholarly databases: ProQuest Psychology Journals, PsycARTICLES, PsycINFO, Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts, and ERIC) and on MEDLINE, with the application of the exclusion criteria resulting in reviewing a total of 27 studies, using fMRI, rsfMRI, VBM, PET, and EEG methods. The results indicate there are significant neurobiological differences between healthy controls and individuals with IGD. The included studies suggest that compared to healthy controls, gaming addicts have poorer response-inhibition and emotion regulation, impaired prefrontal cortex (PFC) functioning and cognitive control, poorer working memory and decision-making capabilities, decreased visual and auditory functioning, and a deficiency in their neuronal reward system, similar to those found in individuals with substance-related addictions. This suggests both substance-related addictions and behavioral addictions share common predisposing factors and may be part of an addiction syndrome. Future research should focus on replicating the reported findings in different cultural contexts, in support of a neurobiological basis of classifying IGD and related disorders.


Gli studi inclusi suggeriscono che i tossicodipendenti da gioco hanno una peggiore inibizione della risposta e regolazione delle emozioni, un funzionamento del PFC e un controllo cognitivo compromessi, una memoria di lavoro e capacità decisionali peggiori, una diminuzione del funzionamento visivo e uditivo e una carenza nel loro sistema di ricompensa neuronale.

Inoltre, è stata riscontrata una maggiore attività cerebrale nei dipendenti da gioco rispetto ai soggetti di controllo sani, suggerendo un aumento della coordinazione sensoriale-motoria nell’IGD.


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doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00166