Electrophysiological studies in Internet addiction: A review within the dual-process framework (2017)

Addictive Behaviors

Volume 64, January 2017, Pages 321–327



  • EEG studies in Internet addiction are reviewed within a dual-process framework.
  • Internet addiction is associated with hypo-activated reflective-control system.
  • Internet addicts also appear to present an hyper-activated affective system.
  • Internet addiction may thus be characterized by an imbalance between systems.
  • Future works should explore Internet addiction subtypes and the role of comorbidities.


The increase of pathological Internet use recently led to the identification of an “Internet addiction” disorder. While its diagnosis criteria remain unclear, the behavioral consequences of Internet addiction have been widely explored. Its cerebral correlates have also been investigated using electroencephalography, but obtained results have not yet been integrated in a sound theoretical framework. This paper aims at reviewing these studies and at analyzing their results through a dual-process perspective. A systematic literature search was conducted using Pubmed to identify studies in English exploring neural oscillations and/or event-related potentials in individuals displaying problematic Internet use. The 14 articles finally selected show that Internet addiction shares essential features with other addictive states, mainly a joint hypo-activation of the reflective system (decreased executive control abilities) and hyper-activation of the automatic-affective one (excessive affective processing of addiction-related cues). Despite the currently limited data, dual-process models thus appear useful to conceptualize the imbalance between cerebral systems in Internet addiction. We finally propose that future electrophysiological studies should better characterize this disequilibrium between controlled-deliberate and automatic-affective networks, notably by using event-related potentials paradigms focusing on each system separately and on their interactions, but also by better specifying the potential differences between sub-categories of Internet addiction.


  • Internet addiction;
  • Problematic Internet use;
  • Electrophysiology;
  • Event-related potentials;