Altered reward processing in pathological computer gamers: ERP-results from a semi-natural Gaming-Design (2015)

Brain Behav. 2015 Jan;5(1):13-23. doi: 10.1002/brb3.293. Epub 2014 Dec 23.

Duven EC1, Müller KW1, Beutel ME1, Wölfling K1.



Internet Gaming Disorder has been added as a research diagnosis in section III for the DSM-V. Previous findings from neuroscientific research indicate an enhanced motivational attention toward cues related to computer games, similar to findings in substance-related addictions. On the other hand in clinical observational studies tolerance effects are reported by patients with Internet Gaming disorder. In the present study we investigated whether an enhanced motivational attention or tolerance effects are present in patients with Internet Gaming Disorder.


A clinical sample from the Outpatient Clinic for Behavioral Addictions in Mainz, Germany was recruited, fulfilling the diagnostic criteria for Internet Gaming Disorder. In a semi-natural EEG design participants played a computer game during the recording of event-related potentials to assess reward processing.


The results indicated an attenuated P300 for patients with Internet Gaming Disorder in response to rewards in comparison to healthy controls, while the latency of N100 was prolonged and the amplitude of N100 was increased.


Our findings support the hypothesis that tolerance effects are present in patients with Internet Gaming Disorder, when actively playing computer games. In addition, the initial orienting toward the gaming reward is suggested to consume more capacity for patients with Internet Gaming Disorder, which has been similarly reported by other studies with other methodological background in disorders of substance-related addictions.


Event-related potentials; incentive sensitization; internet gaming disorder; pathological computer gaming; psychophysiological responses; tolerance