The Effect of Electrotherapy on Brains Addicted to Video Games

Ishmam Khan ’25

Figure 1: Video games play a significant role in society, commonly enjoyed by teens, adolescents and even adults.

Although video games may represent a sanctuary from the stresses of daily living, young people, especially teens, are susceptible to becoming addicted to gaming platforms. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Internet Gaming Disorder (IGD) results in an irresistible compulsion to play video games, which may lead to declining mental health and daily function. Currently, one common technique used to alleviate the effects of IGD on young people is transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). A study in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences sought to investigate the effects of TDCS and its impact on glucose levels in the brain and addictive behavior.

The team assigned 12 sessions of placebo and active tDCS therapy to the frontal lobe of problematic online gamers. These gamers underwent brain scans and completed questionnaires measuring addiction, self-control, and motivation. These questionnaires included the Internet Addiction Test(IAT), Brief Self-Control Scale(BSCS), and Behavioral Inhibition System/Behavioral Activation System(BIS/BAS) at the baseline and 4-week follow-up. The particular areas of the brain that were targeted in this experiment were the putamen, pallidum, and insula, all of which are located near the base of the brain and are affected by addiction. The researchers found that the BCSC score increased within the active tDCS group, where participants within that group had an easier time resisting the urge to play video games if stimuli were present, thus showing increased self-control. Both groups also experienced a decrease in IAT scores, which further proved that the gamers were losing their addiction. Biochemically, glucose levels in the putamen, pallidum, and insula increased in the tDCS treated group, confirming the treatment’s efficacy with higher metabolic activity in the brain areas essential to self-control. 

These results suggest that prefrontal tDCS may be effective for improving control of gaming behaviors and cerebral glucose metabolism structures essential to breaking addictions. Since problematic gaming is often accompanied by mood disturbances and substance abuse, it is crucial to find strategies to break such addictions and provide individuals with the help they need before they fall to more dangerous vices. Further research into this field could not only open up to be more inclusive, such as adults affected by gaming addiction but even prevent the continuing controversy around the impact of video games on young people. 

Works Cited:

[1] H. Jeong, et al., Effects of transcranial direct current stimulation on addictive behavior and brain glucose metabolism in problematic online gamers, Journal of Behavioral Addictions 9, 1011–1021 (2020). doi:10.1556/2006.2020.00092

[2] Image Received From: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?search=video+games&title=Special:MediaSearch&go=Go&type=image

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