BACKGROUND: Pathological gaming is an emerging and poorly understood problem. Impulsivity is commonly impaired in disorders of behavioural and substance addiction, hence we sought to systematically investigate the different subtypes of decisional and motor impulsivity in a well-defined pathological gaming cohort. METHODS: Fifty-two pathological gaming subjects and age-, gender- and IQ-matched healthy volunteers were tested on decisional impulsivity (Information Sampling Task testing reflection impulsivity and delay discounting questionnaire testing impulsive choice), and motor impulsivity (Stop Signal Task testing motor response inhibition, and the premature responding task). We used stringent diagnostic criteria highlighting functional impairment. RESULTS: In the Information Sampling Task, pathological gaming participants sampled less evidence prior to making a decision and scored fewer points compared with healthy volunteers. Gaming severity was also negatively correlated with evidence gathered and positively correlated with sampling error and points acquired. In the delay discounting task, pathological gamers made more impulsive choices, preferring smaller immediate over larger delayed rewards. Pathological gamers made more premature responses related to comorbid nicotine use. Greater number of hours played also correlated with a Motivational Index. Greater frequency of role playing games was associated with impaired motor response inhibition and strategy games with faster Go reaction time. CONCLUSIONS: We show that pathological gaming is associated with impaired decisional impulsivity with negative consequences in task performance. Decisional impulsivity may be a potential target in therapeutic management.
Adult, Case-Control Studies, Decision Making, Female, Humans, Impulsive Behavior, Inhibition (Psychology), Male, Neuropsychological Tests, Reaction Time, Severity of Illness Index, Surveys and Questionnaires, Task Performance and Analysis, Tobacco Use Disorder, Video Games