When it comes to issues with online gaming, men may be more likely to develop problematic habits than women.
According to CNN, new research has revealed that in the brains of men with internet gaming disorder, changes are indicated in the regions of the brain associated with impulsivity. In comparison, the brain scans of women also with the disorder showed no such changes.
Yawen Sun, senior author of the study and diagnostic radiologist at Ren Ji Hospital in China, told CNN via email that males may be more prone to internet gaming disorder. The disorder was only recently added to the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases and is defined as when an “online gamer plays compulsively to the exclusion of other interests, including school and family life.”
“Males with IGD (Internet Gaming Disorder) were found to be more affected by genetic influences than females with IGD,” Sun wrote.
She added that high levels of testosterone in younger males could add to behaviors “such as taking greater risks, being less responsive to punishment, and exhibiting more aggressive behaviors.”
For the study, Sun and fellow researchers sought out 32 men and 23 women, all of whom had internet gaming disorder, as well as 30 males and 22 females without the disorder.
The 105 study participants all had resting-state functional MRI scans, according to CNN. Sun states that this particular type of scan “measures brain activity by detecting associated changes in blood flow.”
In examining the results, the researchers found differences in the brains of men with the gaming disorder versus the brains of men without. In the brains of those affected with the disorder, Sun says there were alterations of brain function in the superior frontal gyrus, which is a part of the prefrontal lobe that has to do with impulse control. When comparing the scans of both sets of women, there were no such differences.
According to Sun, the brain changes that showed in the MRIs “may be one of the risk factors, not the result” of internet gaming disorder.
Sun also stated that “the cortex matures later in males and does not catch up to females in the prefrontal cortex regions by adulthood.” As such, she says younger males have demonstrated less impulse control than their female counterparts.
“Numerous studies, including neuroimaging studies, have found that IGD and substance addiction share similar neural mechanisms,” Sun said. “I speculate that males are more susceptible to the effects of long-term online-game playing in comparison with females,” she added.
Sun says more research is needed but that doing such research in China may prove difficult.
“Most parents in China do not regard IGD as a disease,” she said. “They think there is no need to do the MRI examination.”