Differentiation of Internet addiction risk level based on autonomic nervous responses: the Internet-addiction hypothesis of autonomic activity

Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2010 Aug;13(4):371-8. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2009.0254.


How high-risk Internet addiction (IA) abusers respond to different autonomic nervous activities compared with low-risk subjects may be a critical research goal with prevention and treatment implications. The aim of the present study was to address this issue by observing differences between high- and low-risk IA abusers in four physiological assessments when surfing the Internet: blood volume pulse (BVP), skin conductance (SC), peripheral temperature (PTEMP), and respiratory response (RESPR). Forty-two male and ten female participants aged 18-24 years were screened with the Chen Internet Addiction Scale (CIAS, 2003), and then separated into high- and low-risk IA groups. Using psychophysiology equipment, participants encountered a 3-minute adaptation period followed by a 6-minute testing period for surfing the Internet on baseline and testing phases. The present results indicate that: (a) the CIAS scores were positively and negatively correlated with the RESPR and the PTEMP; (b) the PTEMP and RESPR of high-risk IA abusers were respectively weaker and stronger than those of low-risk IA abusers; the BVP and SC of high-risk IA abusers were respectively augmented and decreased relative to low-risk IA abusers. Thus we suggest that four autonomic responses may be differentially sensitive to abusers' potency in terms of the IA hypothesis of autonomic activity. The stronger BVP and RESPR responses and the weaker PTEMP reactions of the high-risk IA abusers indicate the sympathetic nervous system was heavily activated in these individuals. However, SC activates parasympathetic responses at the same time in the high-risk IA abusers. The paradoxical responses between the sympathetic and parasympathetic actions are addressed in the discussion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Behavior, Addictive / diagnosis*
  • Behavior, Addictive / physiopathology
  • Body Temperature / physiology
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response / physiology
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System / physiology
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychophysiology / methods
  • Pulse / psychology
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Factors
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult