Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2015 Aug;18(8):474-9. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2015.0185.
Individuals who play Internet games excessively show elevated brain reactivity to game-related cues. This study attempted to test whether this elevated cue reactivity observed in game players is a result of repeated exposure to Internet games. Healthy young adults without a history of excessively playing Internet games were recruited, and they were instructed to play an online Internet game for 2 hours/day for five consecutive weekdays.
Two control groups were used: the drama group, which viewed a fantasy TV drama, and the no-exposure group, which received no systematic exposure.
All participants performed a cue reactivity task with game, drama, and neutral cues in the brain scanner, both before and after the exposure sessions.
The game group showed an increased reactivity to game cues in the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC). The degree of VLPFC activation increase was positively correlated with the self-reported increase in desire for the game. The drama group showed an increased cue reactivity in response to the presentation of drama cues in the caudate, posterior cingulate, and precuneus.
The results indicate that exposure to either Internet games or TV dramas elevates the reactivity to visual cues associated with the particular exposure. The exact elevation patterns, however, appear to differ depending on the type of media experienced. How changes in each of the regions contribute to the progression to pathological craving warrants a future longitudinal study.