Neural correlates of model-based behavior in internet gaming disorder and alcohol use disorder

Kwon, M.+, Choi, H.-N.+, Park, H., Ahn, W.-Y.#, Jung, Y.-C.# 2024. Journal of Behavioral Addictions


Background An imbalance between model-based and model-free decision-making systems is a common feature in addictive disorders. However, little is known about whether similar decision-making deficits appear in internet gaming disorder (IGD). This study compared neurocognitive features associated with model-based and model-free systems in IGD and alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Method Participants diagnosed with IGD (n=22) and AUD (n=22), and healthy controls (n=30) performed the two-stage task inside the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner. We used computational modeling and hierarchical Bayesian analysis to provide a mechanistic account of their choice behavior. Then, we performed a model-based fMRI analysis and functional connectivity analysis to identify neural correlates of the decision-making processes in each group.

Results The computational modeling results showed similar levels of model-based behavior in the IGD and AUD groups. However, we observed distinct neural correlates of the model-based reward prediction error (RPE) between the two groups. The IGD group exhibited insula-specific activation associated with model-based RPE, while the AUD group showed prefrontal activation, particularly in the orbitofrontal cortex and superior frontal gyrus.

Furthermore, individuals with IGD demonstrated hyper-connectivity between the insula and brain regions in the salience network in the context of model-based RPE.

Discussion and Conclusions The findings suggest potential differences in the neurobiological mechanisms underlying model-based behavior in IGD and AUD, albeit shared cognitive features observed in computational modeling analysis. As the first neuroimaging study to compare IGD and AUD in terms of the model-based system, this study provides novel insights into distinct decision-making processes in IGD.