Lateral orbitofrontal gray matter abnormalities in subjects with problematic smartphone use (2019)

J Behav Addict. 2019 Sep 23:1-8. doi: 10.1556/2006.8.2019.50.

Lee D1,2, Namkoong K2,3, Lee J2,3, Lee BO1,2, Jung YC2,3.



Smartphone use is becoming commonplace and exerting adequate control over smartphone use has become an important mental health issue. Little is known about the neurobiology underlying problematic smartphone use. We hypothesized that structural abnormalities in the fronto-cingulate brain region could be implicated in problematic smartphone use, similar to that has been reported for Internet gaming disorder and Internet addiction. This study investigated fronto-cingulate gray matter abnormalities in problematic smartphone users, particularly those who spend time on social networking platforms.


The study included 39 problematic smartphone users with excessive use of social networking platforms via smartphone and 49 normal control male and female smartphone users. We conducted voxel-based morphometric analysis with diffeomorphic anatomical registration using an exponentiated Lie algebra algorithm. Region of interest analysis was performed on the fronto-cingulate region to identify whether gray matter volume (GMV) differed between the two groups.


Problematic smartphone users had significantly smaller GMV in the right lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) than healthy controls, and there were significant negative correlations between GMV in the right lateral OFC and the Smartphone Addiction Proneness Scale (SAPS) score, including the SAPS tolerance subscale.


These results suggest that lateral orbitofrontal gray matter abnormalities are implicated in problematic smartphone use, especially in social networking platform overuse. Small GMV in the lateral OFC was correlated with an increasing tendency to be immersed in smartphone use. Our results suggest that orbitofrontal gray matter abnormalities affect regulatory control over previously reinforced behaviors and may underlie problematic smartphone use.

KEYWORDS: gray matter volume; orbitofrontal cortex; problematic smartphone use

PMID: 31545101

DOI: 10.1556/2006.8.2019.50