Korea’s Chung-Ang University Hospital investigators from its Online Game Clinic and Research Center conducted a study to conclude that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common comorbidity with Internet Gaming Disorder (IDG), an apparent condition with symptoms such as depressed mood, high impulsivity, executive dysfunction and hyperfocus among other elements. Although the similarities between the two disorders are well known, now the Korean researchers reveal that the patients with either ADHD or IGD exhibit comparable brain function after both were treated with medication and therapy for a year.
The South Korean researchers from prominent university Chung-Ang University Hospital analyzed the brains of 26 patients with ADHD and 29 patients with ADHD and IGD as well as an additional 20 patients with only an IGD diagnosis. The patients, adolescents who visited the university’s Online Game Clinic and Research Center over a three year period, all were studied by the research team for shifts in clinical symptoms and differences in their brain activity. The Chung-Ang University team deployed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to analyze the patients.
Published in Journal of Attention Disorders, the researchers found that before treatment the fMRI analysis evidenced that patients with both disorders displayed decreased functional connectivity within attentional network—such as the frontal, parietal and occipital cortices and lower functional connectivity between the cortex and the subcortex.
Thereafter patients were treated with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and engaged in personal educational and counseling sessions with a therapist. The patients with ADHD were given methylphenidate or atomoxetine and patients with IGD were treated with bupropion or escitalopram. After a year of this treatment protocol, functional connectivity was boosted between the cortex and subcortex in all the patients involved. The brain scans of patients with ADHD and IGD actually appeared to be very similar. The Korean researchers concluded that patients with ADHD and IGD share similar functional connectivity (FC) at baseline and FC changes in response to treatment—there was definitely a correlation at least with this sampling of adolescents over the period of the study.
Doug Hyun Han, Chung-Ang University