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Affective and cognitive mechanisms of specific Internet-use disorders (ACSID)

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In the eleventh revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) of the WHO, gambling disorder and gaming disorder are classified as “disorders due to addictive behaviors”, which are considered as occurring either predominantly offline or predominantly online. Also in the ICD-11, other behaviors may be considered for the category “other specified disorders due to addictive behaviors”. We consider problematic online pornography use (although this may also be considered a subtype of compulsive sexual behavior disorder in the ICD-11), problematic online buying-shopping, and problematic use of social networks as potential disorders belonging to this category.

Studies addressing the (bio-)psychological processes involved in different types of the aforementioned predominantly online addictive behaviors are needed in order to improve prevention and treatment. The proposed Research Unit focuses on the most prominent predominantly online addictive behaviors, namely gaming, pornography use, buying-shopping, and social-networks use. We use the umbrella term Internet-use disorders (IUD) when referring to the aggregated group of specific types of an uncontrolled and addictive use of Internet applications. The overall goal of the Research Unit is to contribute to a better understanding of the common and differential psychological and neurobiological processes underlying different types of IUD.

Based on a comprehensive theoretical model, namely the Interaction of Person-Affect-Cognition-Execution (I-PACE) model, we aim to investigate the involvement of the theoretically argued (bio)psychological processes, in particular affective and cognitive mechanisms, involved in the development and maintenance of these predominantly online addictive behaviors. The core concepts, which will be addressed in the Research Unit are cue reactivity and craving, executive functions and specific inhibitory control, implicit cognitions, and decision making. A cross-sectional comparison together with a follow-up investigation of individuals with recreational/non-problematic use, risky use, and pathological use of specific Internet applications, will allow for the identification of stages of the process of a predominantly online addictive behavior. Deutschlandkarte englisch

One central characteristic of the proposed Research Unit is that we will investigate more than 1450 participants at several sites using the same core battery of experimental paradigms, neuropsychological tasks, questionnaires, biomarkers, and ambulatory assessment, and including a six-months follow-up survey. By investigating the hypotheses regarding the involvement of affective and cognitive mechanisms in IUD in the proposed Research Unit, we will not only contribute to a better scientific understanding of the psychological processes of IUD, but we can also contribute to clinical applications by showing which affective and cognitive mechanisms should be addressed more intensively in prevention and treatment.

Projectnumber 411232260

25.03.2024DFG research group ACSID extended

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has extended the research group (FOR 2974) "Affective and Cognitive Mechanisms of Specific Internet-use Disorders" (ACSID). A further funding period of three years with a volume of around five million euros has been approved.

Prof. Matthias Brand is the spokesperson for the transregional research group, in which we have been investigating the psychological and neurobiological processes that underlie specific forms of addictive Internet use for the past three years. In addition to gaming disorder, which is already recognized as a mental disorder by the World Health Organization (WHO), excessive shopping, pornography consumption and the problematic use of social networks are also being addressed in ten different sub-projects. Researchers from the University of Duisburg-Essen are working together with colleagues from the Universities of Bochum, Bamberg, Giessen, Mainz, Lübeck and Hannover Medical School.

Press article:

29.04.2024 Interview from a world congress

During his visit to the congress of the World Association on Dual Disorders (WADD), Prof. Dr. Matthias Brand gave an interview alongside his symposium on the I-PACE model for describing the development and persistence of addictions. Find out more about the exciting insights Prof. Dr. Matthias Brand shared on current developments and research priorities. The interview is now available on the first page of the Mallorca newspaper.

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© UDE/Fabian Strauch

27.10.2023 Understanding addictive behaviour

Be it World of Warcraft or pornography: it's easy to get lost in the digital world. Dr Stephanie Antons is researching how problematic addictive behaviour can develop from media consumption. Her work leads the UDE psychologist to the 7 Tesla MRI of the Erwin L. Hahn Institute in Essen. Here she uses high-resolution brain scans to gain deeper insights into the activities of various brain areas and their connection to addictive behaviour.

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09.-13.10.2023 AutumnSchool of FOR2974

The first AutumnSchool of FOR2974 was a great success. During the last week, we were able to create the perfect environment for scientific exchange and transfer around the topic of behavioral addictions. For this, we gathered input from various international guests throughout the week. 

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