Psychiatry Res Neuroimaging. 2018 May 28. pii: S0925-4927(17)30149-X. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2018.05.012.
According to existing neuroimaging studies of social cognition, individuals use knowledge about themselves to infer the mental states of others and to mentalize in a different way when the other is perceived to be similar versus dissimilar to oneself. In this study, we examined whether adolescent boys make mental state inferences for their online game characters and whether adolescents who were diagnosed as addicted to the internet game perceived their personal game character to be similar to themselves. Twelve internet-addicted adolescents and fifteen adolescents without addiction reported whether short phrases described themselves, a well-known historical person, or their own game character while undergoing a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Different patterns of activity emerged for adolescents with internet game addiction compared to healthy adolescents when they were thinking about themselves, another person, and their game characters. Specifically, when addicted adolescents were thinking about their own game characters, more global and significant medial prefrontal (MPFC) and anterior cingulate (ACC) activations were observed, than even when compared to thinking about themselves. The ACC activation was correlated with the symptom severity. The activation patterns demonstrated that addicted adolescents were most attached to their game characters and equated their game characters to human.
KEYWORDS: ACC; Internet addiction; Internet gaming disorder; MPFC; Self-identity; fMRI