video game, media, physiology, adolescence, pathologic, Internet addiction, computer game


Purpose: Pathologic video game use (PVGU) has been associated with a host of negative psychological, physical, and social outcomes during adolescence; however, little research has examined physiological predictors of such use. The purpose of the study was to examine physiological predictors of the development of PVGU across adolescence.

Methods: The article involves a 1-year longitudinal study across midadolescence. Participants were 374 adolescents and their parents from a large metropolitan area in the Northwest United States. PVGU was assessed via questionnaire, as were a number of control variables. A number of physiological indicators including respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) and galvanic skin conductance (indices of parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system activity, respectively) were measured during baseline, a cognitively stimulating task (Rubik's cube), and a family problem-solving task.

Results: Less RSA withdrawal to a cognitively simulating task was related to greater pathologic video game symptoms, but less RSA withdrawal to a family problem-solving task was associated with the presence of pathologic video game symptoms (p < .05). For girls only, galvanic skin conductance activation during the family problem solving was related to greater pathologic video game symptoms (p < .01).

Conclusions: These findings suggest that adolescents who do not find cognitive tasks stimulating physiologically have a greater severity of PVGU. Additionally, adolescents who show physiological signs of stress in a family task were more likely to have PVGU symptoms and only girls have more severe PVGU levels. This study is the first to show that physiological indicators predict PVGU over time in adolescence and has important implications regarding the prevention and treatment of PVGU in adolescence.

Original Publication Citation

Coyne, S. M., Dyer, W. J., *Densley, R., *Money, N. M., Day, R. D., & Harper, J. M. (2015). Physiological indicators of pathological video game use in adolescence. Journal of Adolescent Health, 56, 307-313

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Adolescent Health




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor