Introduction: Internet game overuse is an emerging disorder and features diminished impulse control and poor reward-processing. In an attempt to understand the neurobiological bases of Internet game overuse, we investigated the differences in regional cerebral glucose metabolism at resting state between young individuals with Internet game overuse and those with normal use using 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography study.
Methods: Twenty right-handed male participants (9 normal users: 24.7±2.4 years of age, 11 overusers: 23.5±2.9 years of age) participated. A trait measure of impulsivity was also completed after scanning.
Results: Internet game overusers showed greater impulsiveness than the normal users and there was a positive correlation between the severity of Internet game overuse and impulsiveness. Imaging data showed that the overusers had increased glucose metabolism in the right middle orbitofrontal gyrus, left caudate nucleus, and right insula, and decreased metabolism in the bilateral postcentral gyrus, left precentrai gyrus, and bilateral occipital regions compared to normal users.
Conclusion: Internet game overuse may be associated with abnormal neurobiological mechanisms in the orbitofrontal cortex, striatum, and sensory regions, which are implicated in impulse control, reward processing, and somatic representation of previous experiences. Our results support the idea that Internet game overuse shares psychological and neural mechanisms with other types of impulse control disorders and substance/non-substance-related addiction.