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Abstract

Background and aims

Diminished control over a specific behavior is a core characteristic in addictive behaviors such as problematic Internet-pornography (IP) use. First studies suggest that a hyperactivity of the impulsive system is one reason for impulsive behaviors in the context of problematic IP use. The tripartite-process theory of addiction explains neurocognitive mechanisms beyond common dual-process theories in addictive behaviors. However, the role of the reflective and interoceptive system is still unresolved.

Methods

The study comprised a stop-signal task (SST) including neutral and pornographic images during fMRI and questionnaires to investigate associations between symptoms of problematic IP use, craving, and neural activity of the impulsive, reflective, and interoceptive system. We examined 28 heterosexual males with varying symptom severity of problematic IP use.

Results

Data indicates that individuals with more symptoms of problematic IP use showed better performance in the SST which was linked to decreased insula and inferior frontal gyrus activity during pornographic image processing. An increase in craving was associated with lower activity of the ventral striatum during pornographic image processing. The interoceptive system showed varying effects. Increased insula activity during inhibitory control and decreased activity during pornographic image processing were associated with higher inhibitory control performance.

Discussion and Conclusion

Effects of tolerance and motivational aspects may explain the better inhibitory control performance in individuals with higher symptom severity which was associated with differential activity of the interoceptive and reflective system. Diminished control over IP use presumably results from the interaction between the impulsive, reflective, and interoceptive systems.

Open access

The imperative of integrating empirical and theoretical considerations when developing policy responses to Internet-gaming disorder

Commentary on: Policy responses to problematic video game use: A systematic review of current measures and future possibilities (Király et al., 2018)

Journal of Behavioral Addictions
Authors: Elisa Wegmann and Matthias Brand

This commentary proposes an integrative approach of theoretical and empirical considerations when developing policy responses to Internet-gaming disorder and when evaluating their efficacy. It complements the overview by Király et al. (2018) about preventive and treatment programs by referring to a lack of inclusion of internal factors, such as individual aspects and cognitions, and missing empirical evidence. This commentary claims the integration of current research addressing individual predisposing and maintaining factors in order to evaluate existing programs and to enhance the exchange between actors including policy. This integrative approach has the potential to develop successful preventive strategies, which could be implemented realistically and socially responsible.

Open access

Background and Aims

Most people use the Internet in a functional way to achieve certain goals and needs. However, there is an increasing number of people who experience negative consequences like loss of control and distress based on an excessive use of the Internet and its specific online applications. Some approaches postulate similarities with behavioral addictions as well as substance dependencies. They differentiate between a generalized and a specific Internet addiction, such as the pathological use of social networking sites (SIA–SNS). Prior studies particularly identified the use of applications, personal characteristics, and psychopathological symptoms as significant predictors for the development and maintenance of this phenomenon. So far, it remains unclear how psychopathological symptoms like depression and social anxiety interact with individual expectancies of Internet use and capabilities of handling the Internet, summarized as Internet literacy.

Methods

The current study (N = 334) investigated the interaction of these components in a structural equation model.

Results

The results indicate that the effects of depression and social anxiety on SIA–SNS were mediated by Internet use expectancies and self-regulation.

Discussion

Thus, Internet use expectancies seem to be crucial for SIA–SNS, which is in line with prior models.

Conclusions

SNS use may be reinforced by experienced gratification and relief from negative feelings. Individual competences in handling the Internet may be preventive for the development of SIA–SNS.

Open access
Journal of Behavioral Addictions
Authors: Katrin Starcke, Berenike Schlereth, Debora Domass, Tobias Schöler, and Matthias Brand

Abstract

Background and aims

It is currently under debate whether pathological buying can be considered as a behavioural addiction. Addictions have often been investigated with cue-reactivity paradigms to assess subjective, physiological and neural craving reactions. The current study aims at testing whether cue reactivity towards shopping cues is related to pathological buying tendencies.

Methods

A sample of 66 non-clinical female participants rated shopping related pictures concerning valence, arousal, and subjective craving. In a subgroup of 26 participants, electrodermal reactions towards those pictures were additionally assessed. Furthermore, all participants were screened concerning pathological buying tendencies and baseline craving for shopping.

Results

Results indicate a relationship between the subjective ratings of the shopping cues and pathological buying tendencies, even if baseline craving for shopping was controlled for. Electrodermal reactions were partly related to the subjective ratings of the cues.

Conclusions

Cue reactivity may be a potential correlate of pathological buying tendencies. Thus, pathological buying may be accompanied by craving reactions towards shopping cues. Results support the assumption that pathological buying can be considered as a behavioural addiction. From a methodological point of view, results support the view that the cue-reactivity paradigm is suited for the investigation of craving reactions in pathological buying and future studies should implement this paradigm in clinical samples.

Open access

Background and aims

Several authors consider Internet-pornography-use disorder (IPD) as addictive disorder. One of the mechanisms that has been intensively studied in substance- and non-substance-use disorders is an enhanced attentional bias toward addiction-related cues. Attentional biases are described as cognitive processes of individual’s perception affected by the addiction-related cues caused by the conditioned incentive salience of the cue itself. It is assumed in the I-PACE model that in individuals prone to develop IPD symptoms implicit cognitions as well as cue-reactivity and craving arise and increase within the addiction process.

Methods

To investigate the role of attentional biases in the development of IPD, we investigated a sample of 174 male and female participants. Attentional bias was measured with the Visual Probe Task, in which participants had to react on arrows appearing after pornographic or neutral pictures. In addition, participants had to indicate their sexual arousal induced by pornographic pictures. Furthermore, tendencies toward IPD were measured using the short-Internetsex Addiction Test.

Results

The results of this study showed a relationship between attentional bias and symptom severity of IPD partially mediated by indicators for cue-reactivity and craving. While men and women generally differ in reaction times due to pornographic pictures, a moderated regression analysis revealed that attentional biases occur independently of sex in the context of IPD symptoms.

Discussion

The results support theoretical assumptions of the I-PACE model regarding the incentive salience of addiction-related cues and are consistent with studies addressing cue-reactivity and craving in substance-use disorders.

Open access

Background and aims

Recent research has applied cue-reactivity paradigms to behavioral addictions. The aim of the current meta-analysis is to systematically analyze the effects of learning-based cue-reactivity in behavioral addictions.

Methods

The current meta-analysis includes 18 studies (29 data sets, 510 participants) that have used a cue-reactivity paradigm in persons with gambling (eight studies), gaming (nine studies), or buying (one study) disorders. We compared subjective, peripheral physiological, electroencephal, and neural responses toward addiction-relevant cues in patients versus control participants and toward addiction-relevant cues versus control cues in patients.

Results

Persons with behavioral addictions showed higher cue-reactivity toward addiction-relevant cues compared with control participants: subjective cue-reactivity (d = 0.84, p = .01) and peripheral physiological and electroencephal measures of cue-reactivity (d = 0.61, p < .01). Increased neural activation was found in the caudate nucleus, inferior frontal gyrus, median cingulate cortex, subgenual cingulate, and precentral gyrus. Persons with gambling, gaming, or buying disorders also showed higher cue-reactivity toward addiction-relevant cues compared with control cues: subjective cue-reactivity (d = 0.39, p = .11) and peripheral physiological and electroencephal measures of cue-reactivity (d = 0.47, p = .05). Increased neural activation was found in the caudate nucleus, inferior frontal gyrus, angular gyrus, inferior network, and precuneus.

Discussion and conclusions

Cue-reactivity not only exists in substance-use disorders but also in gambling, gaming, and buying disorders. Future research should differentiate between cue-reactivity in addictive behaviors and cue-reactivity in functional excessive behaviors such as passions, hobbies, or professions.

Open access

Background and aims

Despite indications that the dark triad of personality might be associated with Internet-use disorder (IUD), research about these associations is lacking.

Methods

Two studies were performed to grasp the links between these variables. In the first study, a sample consisting of N = 468 participants (n = 130 males) filled in the Short Dark Triad Questionnaire to assess scores in the dark triad of personality and the short Internet Addiction Test to assess tendencies toward unspecified IUD. In the second study, another independent sample of N = 472 participants (n = 143 males) filled in the same questionnaires plus items about specific forms of IUD.

Results

Traits Machiavellianism and psychopathy were positively linked to tendencies toward unspecified IUD in both samples and males and females. Regarding the associations between tendencies toward specific IUDs and the dark triad of personality, no significant associations were found in males (at least not passing correction procedures for multiple testing). In females, trait Machiavellianism/psychopathy and tendencies toward Internet-shopping disorder, trait psychopathy, and tendencies toward Internet-pornography-use disorder as well as trait Machiavellianism and tendencies toward Internet-communication disorder were significantly positively correlated [at least one of the (sub)scales assessing the respective specific IUD was significantly associated with the respective dark triad trait even after correction procedures for multiple testing]. No robust pattern of associations between trait narcissism and unspecified/specific forms of IUD could be observed across (sub)samples.

Discussion and conclusions

These results indicate positive associations of the traits Machiavellianism and psychopathy (on a subclinical level) with tendencies toward IUD, especially unspecified IUD. The associations with tendencies toward specific forms of IUD seem more complex with differential personality correlates for each specific IUD. These associations need to be replicated.

Open access

Abstract

Background and aims

Cybersex addiction is discussed controversially, while empirical evidence is widely missing. With respect to its mechanisms of development and maintenance Brand et al. (2011) assume that reinforcement due to cybersex should lead to the development of cue-reactivity and craving explaining recurrent cybersex use in the face of growing but neglected negative consequences. To support this hypothesis, two experimental studies were conducted.

Methods

In a cue-reactivity paradigm 100 pornographic cues were presented to participants and indicators of sexual arousal and craving were assessed. The first study aimed at identifying predictors of cybersex addiction in a freely recruited sample of 171 heterosexual males. The aim of the second study was to verify the findings of the first study by comparing healthy (n = 25) and problematic (n = 25) cybersex users.

Results

The results show that indicators of sexual arousal and craving to Internet pornographic cues predicted tendencies towards cybersex addiction in the first study. Moreover, it was shown that problematic cybersex users report greater sexual arousal and craving reactions resulting from pornographic cue presentation. In both studies, the number and subjective quality of real-life sexual contacts were not associated to cybersex addiction.

Discussion

The results support the gratification hypothesis, which assumes reinforcement, learning mechanisms, and craving to be relevant processes in the development and maintenance of cybersex addiction. Poor or unsatisfying sexual real-life contacts cannot sufficiently explain cybersex addiction.

Conclusions

Positive reinforcement in terms of gratification plays a major role in cybersex addiction

Open access