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Our research group investigates the mechanisms of the formation and maintenance of non-substance-related addictions or behavioral addictions, especially of gambling and phenomena such as excessive internet use. The research methods include behavioral studies, imaging (fMRI, PET, EEG) and psychophysiological studies, behavioral analyzes, psychometric and epidemiological studies of various samples in population as well as therapy and care research. Our research work is supported by various funding institutions, such as "The Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience" (BCCN) or Senate Administration for Health and Social Affairs of the state of Berlin.
Addiction on psychotropic substances is one of the most frequently occurring mental disorders worldwide. Key features of the substance-related addiction are loss of control, a strong desire to consume a substance, continued substance consumption despite the evidence of clear damage as well as withdrawal symptoms and tolerance development. Beyond the physical dependence of a substance, there is a mental dependence, which can explain a relapse after a physical withdrawal. These characteristics can also occur in the case of excessive behaviour such as pathological gambling. This disorder is assigned to the substance-related-addictions or behavioral disorders. Similar patterns have also been described such as excessive buying, exercising, or excessive computer playing. But it has not yet been investigated whether these are behavioral addictions.
Pathological gambling or gambling for now is the best described and empirically researched type of behavioral addiction. As early as 1561 the Flemish doctor Pasqual Joostens described the addictive game with the dice as a common game in the population. Thus the game of chance or luck as entertainment and leisure has always entailed the risk of uncontrolled, addictive gambling with serious psychosocial consequences for the person concerned and his / her relatives. The risk of developing an addiction depends also on the type of gaming (e.g., roulette, blackjack, baccarat, lotto and sports betting).
Excessive computer gaming / online gaming
The computer has become a constant companion in our professional life and above all in the leisure time. Online and internet activities on the computer or smartphone as well as computer and video games are becoming more and more popular. However, the increased use of the computer has also described in a problematic way which can be similar to behavioral disorders. In the same time the exact origin and their possible classification in the context of previously known mental disorders is scientifically unclear. Excessive internet usage is further classified in different types of online activities, e.g. online computer games, online pornography, cybersex, social networks, online chats, online gambling, excessive online trade, excessive information search, etc. The most investigated form is online computer games.