Is monetary reward processing altered in drug-naïve youth with a behavioral addiction? Findings from internet gaming disorder (2020)

Neuroimage Clin. 2020 Feb 4;26:102202. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2020.102202.

Yao YW1, Liu L2, Worhunsky PD3, Lichenstein S4, Ma SS5, Zhu L6, Shi XH6, Yang S7, Zhang JT8, Yip SW9.


Current models of addiction biology highlight altered neural responses to non-drug rewards as a central feature of addiction. However, given that drugs of abuse can directly impact reward-related dopamine circuitry, it is difficult to determine the extent to which reward processing alterations are a trait feature of individuals with addictions, or primarily a consequence of exogenous drug exposure. Examining individuals with behavioral addictions is one promising approach for disentangling neural features of addiction from the direct effects of substance exposure. The current fMRI study compared neural responses during monetary reward processing between drug naïve young adults with a behavioral addiction, internet gaming disorder (IGD; n = 22), and healthy controls (n = 27) using a monetary incentive delay task. Relative to controls, individuals with IGD exhibited blunted caudate activity associated with loss magnitude at the outcome stage, but did not differ from controls in neural activity at other stages. These findings suggest that decreased loss sensitivity might be a critical feature of IGD, whereas alterations in gain processing may be less characteristic of individuals with IGD, relative to those with substance use disorders. Therefore, classic theories of altered reward processing in substance use disorders should be translated to behavioral addictions with caution.

KEYWORDS: Behavioral addiction; Internet gaming disorder; Loss aversion; Monetary incentive delay task; Reward processing

PMID: 32045732

DOI: 10.1016/j.nicl.2020.102202