News | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) | December 30, 2015

Wired for Gaming: Brain Differences in Compulsive Video Game Players

Brain scans suggest there are new connections: some potentially beneficial, others harmful

video gamer

Brain scans from nearly 200 adolescent boys provide evidence that the brains of compulsive video game players are wired differently. Chronic video game play is associated with hyperconnectivity between several pairs of brain networks. Some of the changes are predicted to help game players respond to new information. Other changes are associated with distractibility and poor impulse control. The research, a collaboration between the University of Utah School of Medicine, and Chung-Ang University in South Korea, was published online in Addiction Biology on Dec. 22, 2015.

“Most of the differences we see could be considered beneficial. However the good changes could be inseparable from problems that come with them,” said senior author Jeffrey Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neuroradiology at the University of Utah School of Medicine.

Those with Internet gaming disorder are obsessed with video games, often to the extent that they give up eating and sleeping to play. This study reports that in adolescent boys with the disorder, certain brain networks that process vision or hearing are more likely to have enhanced coordination to the so-called salience network. The job of the salience network is to focus attention on important events, poising that person to take action. In a video game, the enhanced coordination could help a gamer to react more quickly to the rush of an oncoming fighter. And in life, to a ball darting in front of a car, or an unfamiliar voice in a crowded room.

“Hyperconnectivity between these brain networks could lead to a more robust ability to direct attention toward targets, and to recognize novel information in the environment,” said Anderson. “The changes could essentially help someone to think more efficiently.” One of the next steps will be to directly determine whether the boys with these brain differences do better on performance tests.

More troublesome is an increased coordination between two brain regions, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and temporoparietal junction, a change also seen in patients with neuropsychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia, Down’s syndrome, and autism. Hyperconnectivity between the two regions is also observed in people with poor impulse control. “Having these networks be too connected may increase distractibility,” said Anderson. At this point it’s not known whether persistent video gaming causes rewiring of the brain, or whether people who are wired differently are drawn to video games.

According to Doug Hyun Han, M.D., Ph.D., professor at Chung-Ang University School of Medicine and adjunct associate professor at the University of Utah School of Medicine, this research is the largest, most comprehensive investigation to date of brain differences in compulsive video game players. Study participants were from South Korea, where video game playing is a popular social activity, much more than in the United States. The Korean government supports his research with the goal of finding ways to identify and treat addicts.

Researchers performed magnetic resonance imaging on 106 boys between the ages of 10 to 19 who were seeking treatment for Internet gaming disorder, a psychological condition listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as warranting further research. The brain scans were compared to those from 80 boys without the disorder, and analyzed for regions that were activated simultaneously while participants were at rest, a measure of functional connectivity.

The team analyzed activity in 25 pairs of brain regions, 300 combinations in all. Specifically, boys with Internet gaming disorder had statistically significant, functional connections between the following pairs of brain regions:

  • Auditory cortex (hearing) - motor cortex (movement)
  • Auditory cortex (hearing) - supplementary motor cortices (movement)
  • Auditory cortex (hearing) - anterior cingulate (salience network)
  • Frontal eye field (vision) - anterior cingulate (salience network)
  • Frontal eye field (vision) - anterior insula (salience network)
  • Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex - temporoparietal junction

“Brain connectivity and psychiatric comorbidity in adolescents with Internet gaming disorder” was published in Addiction Biology online on December 22, 2015. In addition to Anderson and Han, the authors are Perry Renshaw from the University of Utah School of Medicine, and Sun Mi Kim and Sujin Bae from Chung-Ang University. The research was supported by a grant from the Korea Creative Content Agency

For more information: http://healthsciences.utah.edu/

Related Content

Machine Learning IDs Markers to Help Predict Alzheimer's

Neurologists use structural and diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to identify changes in brain tissue (both gray and white matter) that are characteristic of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. The MRI images are analyzed using morphometry and tractography techniques, which detect changes in the shape and dimensions of the brain and in the tissue microstructure, respectively. In this example, the images show the normal brain of an elderly patient. Image courtesy of Jiook Cha.

News | Neuro Imaging | September 20, 2018
New research has shown a combination of two different modes of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computer-based...
PET Imaging Agent Predicts Brain Tau Pathology, Alzheimer's Diagnosis
News | PET Imaging | September 05, 2018
Eli Lilly and Co. and Avid Radiopharmaceuticals Inc. announced a Phase 3 study of positron emission tomography (PET)...
Check-Cap Announces Interim Results of European Study of C-Scan System Version 3
News | Colonoscopy Systems | September 04, 2018
Check-Cap Ltd. announced the interim results for its post-CE approval study of the C-Scan system Version 3, an...
Brain Iron Levels May Predict Multiple Sclerosis Disabilities
News | Neuro Imaging | August 31, 2018
A new, highly accurate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique can monitor iron levels in the brains of multiple...
Study Finds Multiple Sclerosis Drug Slows Brain Shrinkage

An NIH-funded clinical trial suggested that the anti-inflammatory drug ibudilast may slow brain shrinkage caused by progressive MS. Image courtesy of Robert J. Fox, M.D., Cleveland Clinic.

News | Neuro Imaging | August 30, 2018
August 30, 2018 — Results from a clinical...
Rapid Cardiac MRI Technique May Cut Costs, Boost Care in Developing World
News | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) | August 29, 2018
A newly developed rapid imaging protocol quickly and cheaply diagnosed heart ailments in patients in Peru, according to...
iSchemaView RAPID Technology Now Installed in More Than 500 Stroke Centers
News | Neuro Imaging | August 27, 2018
iSchemaView announced that more than 575 stroke centers in 22 countries have selected the RAPID advanced imaging...
Brain Study of 62,454 Scans Identifies Drives of Brain Aging
News | SPECT Imaging | August 27, 2018
In the largest known brain imaging study, scientists from five institutions evaluated 62,454 brain single photon...
Abnormal Protein Concentrations Found in Brains of Military Personnel With Suspected CTE

Researchers are using the tracer, which is injected into a patient, then seen with a PET scan, to see if it is possible to diagnose chronic traumatic encephalopathy in living patients. In this image, warmer colors indicate a higher concentration of the tracer, which binds to abnormal proteins in the brain. Credit UCLA Health.

News | PET Imaging | August 24, 2018
August 24, 2018 — In a small study of
Radiation Therapy Affects Event Recall for Children With Brain Tumors
News | Radiation Therapy | August 24, 2018
Children with certain types of brain tumors who undergo radiation treatment are less likely to recall the specifics of...