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      Physiological markers of biased decision-making in problematic Internet users

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          Abstract

          Background and aims

          Addiction has been reliably associated with biased emotional reactions to risky choices. Problematic Internet use (PIU) is a relatively new concept and its classification as an addiction is debated. Implicit emotional responses were measured in individuals expressing nonproblematic and problematic Internet behaviors while they made risky/ambiguous decisions to explore whether they showed similar responses to those found in agreed-upon addictions.

          Methods

          The design of the study was cross sectional. Participants were adult Internet users ( N = 72). All testing took place in the Psychophysics Laboratory at the University of Bath, UK. Participants were given the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) which provides an index of an individual’s ability to process and learn probabilities of reward and loss. Integration of emotions into current decision-making frameworks is vital for optimal performance on the IGT and thus, skin conductance responses (SCRs) to reward, punishment, and in anticipation of both were measured to assess emotional function.

          Results

          Performance on the IGT did not differ between the groups of Internet users. However, problematic Internet users expressed increased sensitivity to punishment as revealed by stronger SCRs to trials with higher punishment magnitude.

          Discussion and conclusions

          PIU seems to differ on behavioral and physiological levels with other addictions. However, our data imply that problematic Internet users were more risk-sensitive, which is a suggestion that needs to be incorporated into in any measure and, potentially, any intervention for PIU.

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          Most cited references 35

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          A cognitive-behavioral model of pathological Internet use

           R.A. Davis (2001)
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            Different contributions of the human amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex to decision-making.

            The somatic marker hypothesis proposes that decision-making is a process that depends on emotion. Studies have shown that damage of the ventromedial prefrontal (VMF) cortex precludes the ability to use somatic (emotional) signals that are necessary for guiding decisions in the advantageous direction. However, given the role of the amygdala in emotional processing, we asked whether amygdala damage also would interfere with decision-making. Furthermore, we asked whether there might be a difference between the roles that the amygdala and VMF cortex play in decision-making. To address these two questions, we studied a group of patients with bilateral amygdala, but not VMF, damage and a group of patients with bilateral VMF, but not amygdala, damage. We used the "gambling task" to measure decision-making performance and electrodermal activity (skin conductance responses, SCR) as an index of somatic state activation. All patients, those with amygdala damage as well as those with VMF damage, were (1) impaired on the gambling task and (2) unable to develop anticipatory SCRs while they pondered risky choices. However, VMF patients were able to generate SCRs when they received a reward or a punishment (play money), whereas amygdala patients failed to do so. In a Pavlovian conditioning experiment the VMF patients acquired a conditioned SCR to visual stimuli paired with an aversive loud sound, whereas amygdala patients failed to do so. The results suggest that amygdala damage is associated with impairment in decision-making and that the roles played by the amygdala and VMF in decision-making are different.
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              Introduction to behavioral addictions.

              Several behaviors, besides psychoactive substance ingestion, produce short-term reward that may engender persistent behavior, despite knowledge of adverse consequences, i.e., diminished control over the behavior. These disorders have historically been conceptualized in several ways. One view posits these disorders as lying along an impulsive-compulsive spectrum, with some classified as impulse control disorders. An alternate, but not mutually exclusive, conceptualization considers the disorders as non-substance or "behavioral" addictions. Inform the discussion on the relationship between psychoactive substance and behavioral addictions. We review data illustrating similarities and differences between impulse control disorders or behavioral addictions and substance addictions. This topic is particularly relevant to the optimal classification of these disorders in the forthcoming fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). Growing evidence suggests that behavioral addictions resemble substance addictions in many domains, including natural history, phenomenology, tolerance, comorbidity, overlapping genetic contribution, neurobiological mechanisms, and response to treatment, supporting the DSM-V Task Force proposed new category of Addiction and Related Disorders encompassing both substance use disorders and non-substance addictions. Current data suggest that this combined category may be appropriate for pathological gambling and a few other better studied behavioral addictions, e.g., Internet addiction. There is currently insufficient data to justify any classification of other proposed behavioral addictions. Proper categorization of behavioral addictions or impulse control disorders has substantial implications for the development of improved prevention and treatment strategies.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                jba
                JBA
                Journal of Behavioral Addictions
                J Behav Addict
                Akadémiai Kiadó (Budapest )
                2062-5871
                2063-5303
                19 August 2016
                September 2016
                : 5
                : 3
                : 510-517
                Affiliations
                [ 1 ]Department of Psychology, University of Bath , Bath, UK
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author: Dr. Maria Nikolaidou; Department of Psychology, University of Bath, 10 West, Bath BA2 7AY, UK; Phone: +44 0 1225 38 4233; E-mail: m.nikolaidou@ 123456bath.ac.uk
                Article
                10.1556/2006.5.2016.052
                5264418
                27554505
                © 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: 2, Tables: 3, Equations: 0, References: 47, Pages: 0
                Funding
                Funding sources: Funding for this study was provided by the University of Bath Postgraduate Scholarship. The University of Bath had no further role in study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit this paper for publication.
                Categories
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