The Comorbidity Between Internet Gaming Disorder and Depression: Interrelationship and Neural Mechanisms

Front Psychiatry. 2018 Apr 23;9:154. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00154. eCollection 2018.


Internet gaming disorder (IGD) is characterized by cognitive and emotional deficits. Previous studies have reported the co-occurrence of IGD and depression. However, extant brain imaging research has largely focused on cognitive deficits in IGD. Few studies have addressed the comorbidity between IGD and depression symptoms and underlying neural mechanisms. Here, we systematically investigated this issue by combining a longitudinal survey study, a cross-sectional resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) study and an intervention study. Autoregressive cross-lagged modeling on a longitudinal dataset of college students showed that IGD severity and depression are reciprocally predictive. At the neural level, individuals with IGD exhibited enhanced rsFC between the left amygdala and right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), inferior frontal and precentral gyrus, compared with control participants, and the amygdala-frontoparietal connectivity at the baseline negatively predicted reduction in depression symptoms following a psychotherapy intervention. Further, following the intervention, individuals with IGD showed decreased connectivity between the left amygdala and left middle frontal and precentral gyrus, as compared with the non-intervention group. These findings together suggest that IGD may be closely associated with depression; aberrant rsFC between emotion and executive control networks may underlie depression and represent a therapeutic target in individuals with IGD. Registry name: The behavioral and brain mechanism of IGD; URL:; Registration number: NCT02550405.

Keywords: amygdala; depression; fMRI; internet gaming disorder; resting-state functional connectivity; subgenual anterior cingulate cortex.

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