Gender-related functional connectivity and craving during gaming and immediate abstinence during a mandatory break: Implications for development and progression of internet gaming disorder (2018)

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2018 Apr 20. pii: S0278-5846(18)30023-X. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2018.04.009.

Dong G1, Wang Z2, Wang Y3, Du X4, Potenza MN5.


  • Males more frequently develop IGD as compared with females.
  • Gaming impaired IGD’s executive control and enhanced their reward seeking.
  • The impaired executive control was largely observed in males during gaming.
  • The enhanced cravings were more obvious for females during abstinence.



Although males more frequently develop Internet gaming disorder (IGD) as compared with females, few studies have examined gender-related neurocognitive differences in IGD. TASK AND DESIGN: fMRI and subjective data were collected from 119 subjects (IGD, male 29, female 25; recreational game use (RGU), male 34, female 31) when they were actively playing games and during a forced mandatory break. Analyses investigating effects of group (IGD, RGU) and gender (male, female) on the functional connectivity (FC) of executive control and reward systems linked to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and striatum, respectively, were performed. Correlations between FC and subjective craving measures were also calculated.


Gaming-group-by-gender interactions were observed. During gaming in males but not in females, the FC between the DLPFC and superior frontal gyrus was relatively decreased, and that between the striatum and thalamus was relatively increased. During the mandatory break, changes in the FC between DLPFC and superior frontal gyrus and the FC between the striatum and thalamus varied by gender with greater RGU-IGD differences observed in females. Significant correlations between FC and self-reported craving were observed.


During both gaming and a forced mandatory break, brain regions implicated in executive control and reward processing showed changes in FC that varied by gender. Brain regions implicated in executive control showed differential FC in males during gaming, and FC during the forced mandatory break appeared relevant to both genders, and perhaps particularly for females. The findings suggest possible neural mechanisms for why males appear more likely to develop IGD, and why it may be particularly difficult for individuals with IGD to cease gaming.

KEYWORDS: Abstinence; Gaming; Internet gaming disorder; Sex difference

PMID: 29684536

DOI: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2018.04.009