Research Topic

Neurobiological Perspectives in Behavioral Addiction

About this Research Topic

Some classes of behaviors including gambling, Internet game/smartphone use, shopping, and sexual behaviors may lead to compulsive engagement among a minority of individuals. If the behaviors become out of control, these behaviors may be considered non-substance or behavioral addictions.

The Internet is now used extensively in our daily lives, but over past decades, there have been rapidly growing concerns that some individuals show a loss of control over Internet use and even suffer from psychological distress and dependence symptoms, similar to those of substance use disorder. Given that Internet addiction can be considered a consequence of the content of Internet use, such as online chatting, pornography, and information searching, rather than the medium itself, the Internet activity of individuals showing addictive phenomena should be of considerable interest. Recently, many people use smartphones for the purpose of gaming, social network service, viewing video clips or information searching. Therefore, smartphones are replacing personal computers in our daily life and smartphone addiction may be another type of Internet addiction. Consistent with this, Internet addiction can include Internet gaming disorder and other devices have the potential to stimulate addictive Internet usage including smartphone addiction.

Diagnostic criteria for gambling disorder and Internet gaming disorder in DSM-5 resemble those of substance use disorder, such as the existence of withdrawal symptoms and tolerance, continued use despite negative consequences, and loss of control over the activity. However, other types of behavioral addictions such as compulsive buying and compulsive sexual behaviors do not have any specific diagnostic criteria yet in DSM-5. Some evidence from neuroimaging studies supports a shared neurocircuitry of gambling disorder and substance use disorders. For example, abnormal functioning of the ventral medial prefrontal cortex has been associated with gambling and substance addictions, and diminished ventral striatal activation has also been implicated in the cravings associated with gambling and substance addiction. However, a fundamental limitation exists in regard to exploring neurobiological underpinnings of candidate behavioral addictions. Thus, more research is needed regarding the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of behavioral addictions through the use of neurocognitive, neurophysiological, neurochemical and neuroimaging techniques.

The main goal of the present Research Topic is to explore and review studies on neurobiological evidences of behavioral addictions, encompassing gambling disorder, Internet addiction including Internet gaming disorder and smartphone addiction, compulsive buying and compulsive sexual behaviors. Original research articles, review articles as well as case reports will be included and neurobiological studies using neurocognitive, neurophysiological, neurochemical and neuroimaging techniques are welcome.


Keywords: Neurobiology, Neurocognition, Neurophysiology, Neuroimaging, Behavioral addiction


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Some classes of behaviors including gambling, Internet game/smartphone use, shopping, and sexual behaviors may lead to compulsive engagement among a minority of individuals. If the behaviors become out of control, these behaviors may be considered non-substance or behavioral addictions.

The Internet is now used extensively in our daily lives, but over past decades, there have been rapidly growing concerns that some individuals show a loss of control over Internet use and even suffer from psychological distress and dependence symptoms, similar to those of substance use disorder. Given that Internet addiction can be considered a consequence of the content of Internet use, such as online chatting, pornography, and information searching, rather than the medium itself, the Internet activity of individuals showing addictive phenomena should be of considerable interest. Recently, many people use smartphones for the purpose of gaming, social network service, viewing video clips or information searching. Therefore, smartphones are replacing personal computers in our daily life and smartphone addiction may be another type of Internet addiction. Consistent with this, Internet addiction can include Internet gaming disorder and other devices have the potential to stimulate addictive Internet usage including smartphone addiction.

Diagnostic criteria for gambling disorder and Internet gaming disorder in DSM-5 resemble those of substance use disorder, such as the existence of withdrawal symptoms and tolerance, continued use despite negative consequences, and loss of control over the activity. However, other types of behavioral addictions such as compulsive buying and compulsive sexual behaviors do not have any specific diagnostic criteria yet in DSM-5. Some evidence from neuroimaging studies supports a shared neurocircuitry of gambling disorder and substance use disorders. For example, abnormal functioning of the ventral medial prefrontal cortex has been associated with gambling and substance addictions, and diminished ventral striatal activation has also been implicated in the cravings associated with gambling and substance addiction. However, a fundamental limitation exists in regard to exploring neurobiological underpinnings of candidate behavioral addictions. Thus, more research is needed regarding the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of behavioral addictions through the use of neurocognitive, neurophysiological, neurochemical and neuroimaging techniques.

The main goal of the present Research Topic is to explore and review studies on neurobiological evidences of behavioral addictions, encompassing gambling disorder, Internet addiction including Internet gaming disorder and smartphone addiction, compulsive buying and compulsive sexual behaviors. Original research articles, review articles as well as case reports will be included and neurobiological studies using neurocognitive, neurophysiological, neurochemical and neuroimaging techniques are welcome.


Keywords: Neurobiology, Neurocognition, Neurophysiology, Neuroimaging, Behavioral addiction


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

28 February 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

28 February 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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