Decreased functional connectivity between ventral tegmental area and nucleus accumbens in Internet gaming disorder: evidence from resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (2015)

Behav Brain Funct. 2015 Nov 18;11(1):37.

Zhang JT1,2, Ma SS3, Yip SW4, Wang LJ5, Chen C6, Yan CG7,8,9, Liu L10, Liu B11, Deng LY12, Liu QX13, Fang XY14,15.



Internet gaming disorder (IGD) has become an increasing mental health problem worldwide. Decreased resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) between the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) has been found in substance use and is thought to play an important role in the development of substance addiction. However, rsFC between the VTA and NAcc in a non-substance addiction, such as IGD, has not been assessed previously. The current study aimed to investigate: (1) if individuals with IGD exhibit alterations in VTA-NAcc functional connectivity; and (2) whether VTA-NAcc functional connectivity is associated with subjective Internet craving.


Thirty-five male participants with IGD and 24 healthy control (HC) individuals participated in resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging. Regions of interest (left NAcc, right NAcc and VTA) were selected based on the literature and were defined by placing spheres centered on Talairach Daemon coordinates.


In comparison with HCs, individuals with IGD had significantly decreased rsFC between the VTA and right NAcc. Resting-state functional connectivity strength between the VTA and right NAcc was negatively correlated with self-reported subjective craving for the Internet.


These results suggest possible neural functional similarities between individuals with IGD and individuals with substance addictions.