Online Gaming Addiction in Men Affects Brain Impulse Control


CHICAGO, November 28, 2018 / PRNewswire / – Researchers using functional MRI (fMRI) have found differences in the brains of men and women who are addicted to online games, according to a new study presented today at the Radiology Society's annual meeting of North America (RSNA).

"The use of the internet is an integral part of the daily lives of many young adults, and the loss of control over Internet use can cause a variety of negative effects," said the study's senior author, Yawen Sun, M.D., a diagnostic radiologist in the Radiology Department of Ren Ji Hospital, affiliated with Shanghai Jiao Tong University Medical School Shanghai, China. "Internet game disruption has become a major public health problem worldwide, both among adolescents and young adults."

Internet game interference (IGD) is a condition characterized by compulsive online game play with the exclusion of other interests. Individuals with ED often experience significant interference or pressure and may experience negative effects at work, at school or in relationships because of the amount of time they spend playing. They also show withdrawal symptoms when not playing.

While some evidence exists that IGD is more common among men, there is little research on differences in the structure and function of the brains of men and women with the disorder.

The researchers studied 32 men and 23 women with ED. They did rest-state fMRI in the study participants, along with 30 healthy men and 22 women according to the age of the controls. Resting-state fMRI allows a view of brain activity when not focused on a particular task. This study looked at the relationship between brain activity as seen on fMRI and scores on the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale-11, a test commonly used to assess behavioral inhibition.

The results illuminate the main differences between men and women with ED. Men with ED show changes in regional and tissue brain function. In particular, they have lower brain activity in the superior frontal gyrus, an area of ​​the brain's prefrontal lobe that is important for controlling impulses. Women with ED do not show changes in this brain.

"Our findings suggest that changes in brain activity were observed in men with ED, but not in women with ED, and that lower brain activity in the superior frontal gyrus in men with ED may be associated with higher impulsivity," Dr. Sun. .

These differences and other differences that appear in the study show that ED can interact with gender-specific brain function patterns in men and women.

Different maturation levels in the male and female brains can also contribute to gender-specific changes in the ED, Dr. Sun noted. For example, the prefrontal cortex, which has a central role in executive and inhibitory functions, mature later in men.

"Men have shown lower levels of impulse control than women, and their impulse control has also increased more gradually," he said. "Given the role of inhibitory control in the initiation of ED, young men may be inclined to experiment with pathological Internet use to a greater extent than young women."

A special dysfunctional prefrontal cortex in men with ED may be associated with high impulsivity, a finding that is partly consistent with previous studies of substance addiction. This study adds much to the literature that links behavioral problems associated with ED with those found in individuals with substance abuse problems.

"However, it is still unclear whether the functional and structural changes of the brain found in ED are game-induced or precursors for susceptibility," Dr. Sun. "I think future research should focus on the use of functional MRI to identify brain vulnerability factors related to the development of ED."

Internet, or online, games have grown rapidly over the past few decades. This includes social games, cellular games, and multiplayer games, which generate billions of dollars in revenue in the US alone. The latest survey reports that there are more than 55 million online console gamers in the US. According to the Nielsen data measurement company, 162 million people, or about half of the US population, live in households with video game consoles.

Co-author Xu Han, M.D., Yao Wang, Weina Ding, Yan Zhou, Ph.D., and Jianrong Xu.

Note: Copies of the 2018 RSNA news release and electronic drawings will be available online at early Monday, November 26.

RSNA is an association of more than 54,000 radiologists, radiation oncologists, medical physicists and related scientists, promoting excellence in patient care and the provision of health care through education, research and technological innovation. This institution is headquartered in Oak Brook, Pain. (

Editor's note: Data in this release may differ from those in published abstracts and those actually presented at the meeting, because researchers continue to update their data to the meeting. To ensure you use the most up-to-date information, please contact us.

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