Background: Internet gaming disorder (IGD) is a type of behavioural addictions. One of the key features of addiction is the excessive exposure to addictive objectives (e.g. drugs) reduces the sensitivity of the brain reward system to daily rewards (e.g. money). This is thought to be mediated via the signals expressed as dopaminergic reward prediction error (RPE). Emerging evidence highlights blunted RPE signals in drug addictions. However, no study has examined whether IGD also involves alterations in RPE signals that are observed in other types of addictions.
Methods: To fill this gap, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging data from 45 IGD and 42 healthy controls (HCs) during a reward-related prediction-error task and utilised a psychophysiological interaction (PPI) analysis to characterise the underlying neural correlates of RPE and related functional connectivity.
Results: Relative to HCs, IGD individuals showed impaired reinforcement learning, blunted RPE signals in multiple regions of the brain reward system, including the right caudate, left orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), and right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Moreover, the PPI analysis revealed a pattern of hyperconnectivity between the right caudate, right putamen, bilateral DLPFC, and right dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) in the IGD group. Finally, linear regression suggested that the connection between the right DLPFC and right dACC could significantly predict the variation of RPE signals in the left OFC.
Conclusions: These results highlight disrupted RPE signalling and hyperconnectivity between regions of the brain reward system in IGD. Reinforcement learning deficits may be crucial underlying characteristics of IGD pathophysiology.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Applied Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- brain reward system
- internet gaming disorder
- reinforcement learning
- reward prediction error