Posted by & filed under Clinical Neuropsychology, Consciousness, Neuroscience, Physiology, Psychological Disorders.

Description: As the Dilbert cartoon below suggests there has been much research and more speculation about the role of the neurotransmitter dopamine in explaining the focused nature of many people’s interest in video or online games. The American Psychiatric Association considered adding a disorder called Internet Gaming Disorder the latest 5th edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual but decided to include it as a special research category (needing more study). Internet-Based Gambling is covered in another category of Gambling Disorder. The articles linked below provide a general overview of this area of disorder and speculate as to possible brain based explanatory links. The most commonly noted link concerns the role of dopamine in the “pleasure” circuits” of the brain associated with basic pleasures like food and sex and perhaps also associated with the “rewards” of video gaming as suggested by Zimbu the monkey’s reaction to Dilbert’s new APP in the cartoon below. If you have not run across the connection between dopamine and video games before then read the two articles linked below for an overview. If you HAVE run across this hypothesized connection before then, as to you look through the articles try and think critically about alternative or additional hypotheses.

Source: Video Games Can Activate the Brain’s Pleasure Circuits, David j. Linden, The Compass of Pleasure, Psychology Today and Internet Gaming Disorder in DSM-5, Stephanie A. Sarkis, Here, There, and Everywhere, Psychology Today.

Date: December 19, 2017

Photo Credit:  Scott Adams

Links:  Article Links — and

As with a lot of initial hypotheses about links between sometimes alarming behavior in the world and brain functioning it may well be that the dopamine hypothesis for addictive video gaming is a bit too simple to be the only explanatory angle in play. If you are up for it, a couple of the articles listed in the References (Further Reading) section below provide concise reviews of recent research using brain scans and related techniques to examine what areas of the brain are activated during video gaming and what differences there may be in the brains of those individuals who meet the diagnostic criteria for Internet Gaming Disorder compared to those who do not. The array of ways in which video games engage our brains is rather amazing but then that is likely part of why the gaming industry is so lucrative ($99.6 billion worldwide in 2016, ).

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How might the neurochemical dopamine be involved in video gaming?
  2. How might dopamine be involved in  the shifting of a bit of video gaming into a video gaming addiction?
  3. What other brain-bases systems, areas, or factors, might be involved in video gaming addiction issues?

References (Read Further):

Weinstein, A., Livny, A., & Weizman, A. (2017). New developments in brain research of internet and gaming disorder. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews.

Weinstein, A. M. (2017). An Update Overview on Brain Imaging Studies of Internet Gaming Disorder. Frontiers in psychiatry, 8, 185.

Nielsen, R. K. L., & Blom, J. H. (2017). Crimes Against Pokémon GO1: why dopamine does not explain the pleasure of video games.

Choi, J., Cho, H., Kim, J. Y., Jung, D. J., Ahn, K. J., Kang, H. B., … & Kim, D. J. (2017). Structural alterations in the prefrontal cortex mediate the relationship between Internet gaming disorder and depressed mood. Scientific Reports, 7.,5&as_ylo=2016&scillfp=11502996620639751515&oi=lle