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      Exploring the Neural Basis of Avatar Identification in Pathological Internet Gamers and of Self-Reflection in Pathological Social Network Users

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          Background and aims

          Internet gaming addiction appears to be related to self-concept deficits and increased angular gyrus (AG)-related identification with one’s avatar. For increased social network use, a few existing studies suggest striatal-related positive social feedback as an underlying factor. However, whether an impaired self-concept and its reward-based compensation through the online presentation of an idealized version of the self are related to pathological social network use has not been investigated yet. We aimed to compare different stages of pathological Internet game and social network use to explore the neural basis of avatar and self-identification in addictive use.


          About 19 pathological Internet gamers, 19 pathological social network users, and 19 healthy controls underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while completing a self-retrieval paradigm, asking participants to rate the degree to which various self-concept-related characteristics described their self, ideal, and avatar. Self-concept-related characteristics were also psychometrically assessed.


          Psychometric testing indicated that pathological Internet gamers exhibited higher self-concept deficits generally, whereas pathological social network users exhibit deficits in emotion regulation only. We observed left AG hyperactivations in Internet gamers during avatar reflection and a correlation with symptom severity. Striatal hypoactivations during self-reflection (vs. ideal reflection) were observed in social network users and were correlated with symptom severity.

          Discussion and conclusion

          Internet gaming addiction appears to be linked to increased identification with one’s avatar, evidenced by high left AG activations in pathological Internet gamers. Addiction to social networks seems to be characterized by emotion regulation deficits, reflected by reduced striatal activation during self-reflection compared to during ideal reflection.

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          Most cited references 57

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            Friend networking sites and their relationship to adolescents' well-being and social self-esteem.

            The aim of this study was to investigate the consequences of friend networking sites (e.g., Friendster, MySpace) for adolescents' self-esteem and well-being. We conducted a survey among 881 adolescents (10-19-year-olds) who had an online profile on a Dutch friend networking site. Using structural equation modeling, we found that the frequency with which adolescents used the site had an indirect effect on their social self-esteem and well-being. The use of the friend networking site stimulated the number of relationships formed on the site, the frequency with which adolescents received feedback on their profiles, and the tone (i.e., positive vs. negative) of this feedback. Positive feedback on the profiles enhanced adolescents' social self-esteem and well-being, whereas negative feedback decreased their self-esteem and well-being.
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              Precentral gyrus discrepancy in electronic versions of the Talairach atlas.

              Electronic versions of the atlas of Talairach and Tournoux, including the Talairach Daemon and the official versions published by Thieme, contain a discrepant region of the precentral gyrus on axial slice +35 mm that extends far forward into the frontal lobe. This area is anatomically incorrect and internally inconsistent within the digital atlas software applications using their multiplanar cross-referencing tools. By cross-referencing the axial, sagittal, and coronal plates from the original printed atlas, we demonstrate that the discrepant area should be labeled middle frontal gyrus. The mislabeled portion encompasses a 3 x 1.5-cm region in the axial plane and has significant implications for sensorimotor studies that rely on the digital atlases for anatomic labeling.

                Author and article information

                Journal of Behavioral Addictions
                J Behav Addict
                Akadémiai Kiadó (Budapest )
                07 14 2016
                September 2016
                : 5
                : 3
                : 485-499
                [ 1 ]Department of Addictive Behavior and Addiction Medicine, Central Institute of Mental Health , Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University , Mannheim, Germany
                [ 2 ]Institute of Sports and Sports Science, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology , Karlsruhe, Germany
                [ 3 ]Department of Biostatistics, Central Institute of Mental Health , Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University , Mannheim, Germany
                [ 4 ]Medical Quality Management, Kraichtal Clinics , Kraichtal, Germany
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author: Tagrid Leménager, PhD; Department of Addictive Behavior and Addiction Medicine, Central Institute of Mental Health, D-68159 Mannheim, Germany; Phone: +49 621 1703 3907; Fax: +49 621 1703 3505; E-mail: Tagrid.Lemenager@
                © 2016 The Author(s)

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium for non-commercial purposes, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Figures: 7, Tables: 4, Equations: 0, References: 63, Pages: 15
                Funding sources: This study was supported by the Ministerium für Arbeit und Sozialordnung, Familie, Frauen und Senioren, Baden-Württemberg, Germany (reference number 55-5072-7.1; PI: Prof. Dr. med. Karl Mann, Co-PI: Dr. Tagrid Leménager).
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