Prefrontal Control and Internet Addiction: A Theoretical Model and Review of Neuropsychological and Neuroimaging Findings


Brand, Matthias; Young, Kimberly S.; and Laier, Christian


2014 in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Vol. 8, pp. 375

  • This article presents a theoretical model and review of neuropsychological studies that demonstrate that cue-reactivity, craving, and decision making are important concepts for understanding Internet addiction; and that the findings on reductions in executive control are consistent with other behavioral addictions, such as pathological gambling.
Most people use the Internet as a functional tool to perform their personal goals in everyday-life such as making airline or hotel reservations. However, some individuals suffer from a loss of control over their Internet use resulting in personal distress, symptoms of psychological dependence, and diverse negative consequences. This phenomenon is often referred to as Internet addiction. Only Internet Gaming Disorder has been included in the appendix of the DSM-5, but it has already been argued that Internet addiction could... READ FULL ABSTRACT
  • "In summary, neuropsychological and neuroimaging research on excessive and addictive use of the Internet is a rapidly growing scientific field, which has revealed a sum of very interesting results. These results have both scientific and clinical impact and help to better understand the neurobiological basis of Internet addiction. The results converge to the view that an addictive use of the Internet is linked to functional brain changes involving parts of the prefrontal cortex, accompanied by changes in other cortical (e.g., temporal) and subcortical (e.g., ventral striatum) regions. Additionally, there are some hints for structural brain changes, which also involve parts of the prefrontal cortex. The functional changes in prefrontal and striatal areas are primarily observable when individuals with Internet addiction perform certain tasks, in particular those measuring executive functions and cue-reactivity. These results, together with those emerging from neuropsychological studies, suggest that prefrontal control processes are reduced in individuals who are addicted to the Internet and may be related to the patients’ loss of control over their Internet use."
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