Error processing and response inhibition in excessive computer game players: an event-related potential study (2012)

Addict Biol. 2012 Sep;17(5):934-47. doi: 10.1111/j.1369-1600.2012.00467.x. Epub 2012 Jun 27.

Littel M1, van den Berg I, Luijten M, van Rooij AJ, Keemink L, Franken IH.


Excessive computer gaming has recently been proposed as a possible pathological illness. However, research on this topic is still in its infancy and underlying neurobiological mechanisms have not yet been identified. The determination of underlying mechanisms of excessive gaming might be useful for the identification of those at risk, a better understanding of the behavior and the development of interventions. Excessive gaming has been often compared with pathological gambling and substance use disorder. Both disorders are characterized by high levels of impulsivity, which incorporates deficits in error processing and response inhibition.

The present study aimed to investigate error processing and response inhibition in excessive gamers and controls using a Go/NoGo paradigm combined with event-related potential recordings. Results indicated that excessive gamers show reduced error-related negativity amplitudes in response to incorrect trials relative to correct trials, implying poor error processing in this population. Furthermore, excessive gamers display higher levels of self-reported impulsivity as well as more impulsive responding as reflected by less behavioral inhibition on the Go/NoGo task.

The present study indicates that excessive gaming partly parallels impulse control and substance use disorders regarding impulsivity measured on the self-reported, behavioral and electrophysiological level. Although the present study does not allow drawing firm conclusions on causality, it might be that trait impulsivity, poor error processing and diminished behavioral response inhibition underlie the excessive gaming patterns observed in certain individuals. They might be less sensitive to negative consequences of gaming and therefore continue their behavior despite adverse consequences.