Neurobiological mechanisms underlying internet gaming disorder

Aviv Weinstein, Michel Lejoyeux

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


This review summarizes studies on the neurobiological correlates of internet gaming disorder (IGD), presently the most direct approach to analyzing the impact of digital technology and the internet on brain mechanisms. Brain imaging studies have shown that IGD shares, to a large extent, neurobiological alterations that are typical for other addictions, such as: (i) activation in brain regions associated with reward, as evident from cue exposure and craving studies and neurotransmitter systems studies that indicate an involvement of dopamine-mediated reward mechanisms; (ii) reduced activity in impulse control areas and impaired decision making; and (iii) reduced functional connectivity in brain networks that are involved in cognitive control, executive function, motivation, and reward. Moreover, there are structural changes, mainly reduction in gray-matter volume and white-matter density. Comorbidity studies indicate that executive control networks in attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may increase the susceptibility to develop IGD. Most importantly, this review also outlines findings that show the effects of excessive use of screens, here referring to the playing of computer games, which activate many brain regions associated with cognitive, motor, and sensory function and not directly involved in other forms of addiction. This review describes and summarizes comprehensively the neurobiological correlates of addictive internet use in adolescents and young adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-126
Number of pages14
JournalDialogues in Clinical Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020


  • Brain imaging
  • Control inhibition
  • Cue reactivity
  • Decision making
  • FMRI
  • Internet gaming disorder
  • Reward


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