Sci Rep. 2018 Oct 11;8(1):15117. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-33324-y.
Internet gaming addiction (IGA), as the most popular subtype of Internet addiction, is becoming a common and widespread mental health concern, but there are still debates on whether IGA constitutes a psychiatric disorder. The view on the brain as a complex network has developed network analysis of neuroimaging data, revealing that abnormalities of brain functional and structural systems are related to alterations in brain network configuration, such as small-world topology, in neuropsychiatric disorders. Here we applied network analysis to diffusion-weighted MRI data of 102 gaming individuals and 41 non-gaming healthy individuals to seek changes in the small-world topology of brain structural networks in IGA. The connection topology of brain structural networks shifted to the direction of random topology in the gaming individuals, irrespective of whether they were diagnosed with Internet gaming disorder. Furthermore, when we simulated targeted or untargeted attacks on nodes, the connection topology of the gaming individuals’ brain structural networks under no attacks was comparable to that of the non-gaming healthy individuals’ brain structural networks under targeted attacks. Alterations in connection topology provide a clue that Internet gaming addicted brains could be as abnormal as brains suffering from targeted damage.