Internet gaming disorder (IGD) leads to serious impairments in cognitive functions, and lacks of effective treatments. Cue-induced craving is a hallmark feature of this disease and is associated with addictive memory elements. Memory retrieval-extinction manipulations could interfere with addictive memories and attenuate addictive syndromes, which might be a promising intervention for IGD. The aims of this study were to explore the effect of a memory retrieval-extinction manipulation on gaming cue-induced craving and reward processing in individuals with IGD.
A total of 49 individuals (mean age: 20.52 ± 1.58) with IGD underwent a memory retrieval-extinction training (RET) with a 10-min interval (R-10min-E, n = 24) or a RET with a 6-h interval (R-6h-E, n = 25) for two consecutive days. We assessed cue-induced craving pre- and post-RET, and at the 1- and 3-month follow-ups. The neural activities during reward processing were also assessed pre- and post-RET.
Compared with the R-6h-E group, gaming cravings in individuals with IGD were significantly reduced after R-10min-E training at the 3-month follow-up (P < 0.05). Moreover, neural activities in the individuals with IGD were also altered after R-10min-E training, which was corroborated by enhanced reward processing, such as faster responses (P < 0.05) and stronger frontoparietal functional connectivity to monetary reward cues, while the R-6h-E training had no effects.
Discussion and Conclusions
The two-day R-10min-E training reduced addicts’ craving for Internet games, restored monetary reward processing in IGD individuals, and maintained long-term efficacy.