Brain correlates of craving for online gaming under cue exposure in subjects with Internet gaming addiction and in remitted subjects

Addict Biol. 2013 May;18(3):559-69. doi: 10.1111/j.1369-1600.2011.00405.x. Epub 2011 Oct 26.


This study aimed to evaluate brain correlates of cue-induced craving to play online games in subjects with Internet gaming addiction (IGA), subjects in remission from IGA and controls. The craving response was assessed by event-related design of functional magnetic resonance images (fMRIs). Fifteen subjects with IGA, 15 in remission from IGA and 15 controls were recruited in this study. The subjects were arranged to view the gaming screenshots and neutral images under investigation of fMRIs. The results showed that bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), precuneus, left parahippocampus, posterior cingulate and right anterior cingulate were activated in response to gaming cues in the IGA group and their activation was stronger in the IGA group than those in the control group. Their region-of-interest was also positively correlated with subjective gaming urge under cue exposure. These activated brain areas represent the brain circuit corresponding to the mechanism of substance use disorder. Thus, it would suggest that the mechanism of IGA is similar to substance use disorder. Furthermore, the IGA group had stronger activation over right DLPFC and left parahippocampus than did the remission group. The two areas would be candidate markers for current addiction to online gaming and should be investigated in future studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Behavior, Addictive / pathology*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Diseases / pathology*
  • Cues*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Video Games*
  • Young Adult