Blunted feedback processing during risk-taking in adolescents with features of problematic Internet use (2015)

Addict Behav. 2015 Jan 20;45C:156-163. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2015.01.008.

Yau YH1, Potenza MN2, Mayes LC3, Crowley MJ4.


While the conceptualization of problematic Internet use (PIU) as a “behavioral addiction” resembling substance-use disorders is debated, the neurobiological underpinnings of PIU remain understudied.

This study examined whether adolescents displaying features of PIU (at-risk PIU; ARPIU) are more impulsive and exhibit blunted responding in the neural mechanisms underlying feedback processing and outcome evaluation during risk-taking. Event-related potentials (ERPs) elicited by positive (i.e. reward) and negative (i.e. loss) feedback were recorded during performance on a modified version of the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART) among ARPIU (n=39) and non-ARPIU subjects (n=27).

Compared to non-ARPIU, ARPIU adolescents displayed higher levels of urgency and lack of perseverance on the UPPS Impulsive Behavior Scale. Although no between-group difference in BART performance was observed, ERPs demonstrated overall decreased sensitivity to feedback in ARPIU compared to non-ARPIU adolescents, as indexed by blunted feedback-related negativity (FRN) and P300 amplitudes to both negative and positive feedback. The present study provides evidence for feedback processing during risk-taking as a neural correlate of ARPIU.

Given recent concerns regarding the growing prevalence of PIU as a health concern, future work should examine the extent to which feedback processing may represent a risk factor for PIU, a consequence of PIU, or possibly both.