Researchers using functional MRI (fMRI) have discovered differences in the brains of men and women addicted to online gambling, according to a new study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiology Society of North America (RSNA).
"The use of the Internet is an integral part of the daily lives of many young adults and a loss of control over its use could lead to a variety of negative outcomes," said study lead author Yawen Sun, MD, a radiologist. Diagnostic Radiology Department at Ren Ji Hospital, affiliated with the Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China. "Gambling disorders on the Internet have become a major public health concern worldwide, both among adolescents and young adults."
Internet Gambling Disorder (IGD) is a condition characterized by the compulsive gambling of online gambling, to the exclusion of other interests. People suffering from IGD often suffer from a major disability or distress and may experience adverse effects at work, at school or in their relationships due to the time that it takes for them to work. they go to play. They also show withdrawal symptoms when they do not play.
There is some evidence that IGD is more prevalent in men, but there is little research on differences in the structure and function of the brain of men and women with the disorder.
The researchers studied 32 men and 23 women with IGD. They performed fMRI at rest on study participants, as well as 30 healthy male and 22 female controls. The fMRI at rest state allows to visualize the activity of the brain when it is not centered on a particular task. The study examined the relationships between brain activity observed at fMRI and the Barratt Scale 11 scores, a commonly used test for assessing behavioral inhibition.
The results shed light on the main differences between men and women with IGD. Men with IGD had impaired brain function at the regional and at the network level. In particular, they had lower brain activity in the upper frontal gyrus, an area of the prefrontal lobe of the brain that is important for impulse control. Women with IGD have not presented any of these brain alterations.
"Our results demonstrated that alterations in brain activity are observed in men with IGD, but not in women with IGD, and that lower brain activity in the Upper frontal gyrus in men with IGD may be associated with higher impulsivity, "said Dr. Sun. .
This difference, along with other apparent differences in the study, suggests that IGD may interact with the gender-specific brain function characteristics of men and women.
Different maturation rates in men's and women's brains could also contribute to gender-specific IGD alterations, noted Dr. Sun. For example, the prefrontal cortex, which plays a central role in executive function and inhibition, matures later in humans.
"Men have shown lower levels of impulse control over women, and their control is also increasing more gradually," she said. "Given the role of inhibitory control in the initiation of IGD, young men may have a tendency to experiment more with the use of the pathological Internet than younger women."
A dysfunctional prefrontal cortex, specifically in men with IGD, may be associated with high impulsivity, consistent in part with previous studies of substance abuse. The research adds to a growing body of literature linking behavioral issues associated with IGD to those encountered in people with substance abuse problems.
"However, it is not clear whether the functional and structural changes of the brain found in the IGD are induced by gambling or as precursors of vulnerability," said Dr. Sun. "I think future research should focus on the use of functional MRI to identify brain susceptibility factors related to the development of IGD."
Online and online games have increased dramatically in recent decades. It includes social games, mobile games and multiplayer games, which generate billions of dollars of revenue in the United States alone. According to recent polls, there are more than 55 million online console players in the United States. According to data measurement company Nielsen, 162 million people, or about half of the US population, live in a home with a video game console.