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Internet Addiction Linked to 5-HT2A Receptor Polymorphism: Serotonin HTR2A Gene rs6313 (2024 Study)

In the digital age, Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) emerges as a complex interplay of technology, psychology, and genetics.

This intricate relationship underscores the need for a multidisciplinary approach to understanding and addressing IAD.

A recent study analyzed the genetic underpinnings of internet addiction and discovered a strong link with the serotonin 2A receptor gene (HTR2A) and its rs6313 polymorphism.


  1. Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) has become a global public health concern, characterized by excessive or poorly controlled preoccupations, urges, or behaviors regarding internet use that lead to impairment or distress.
  2. Serotonin & Dopamine, neurotransmitters known for their roles in mood regulation, impulsivity, and addiction, are also implicated in IAD, suggesting a biological underpinning to the disorder.
  3. HTR2A Gene Polymorphism (rs6313) has been identified as a potential genetic factor associated with IAD, indicating that variations in serotonin receptor genes may influence susceptibility to internet addiction.
  4. Genetic Testing & Research in the context of IAD can offer new insights into prevention, diagnosis, and treatment strategies, highlighting the importance of integrating genetic considerations into behavioral addiction studies.

Source: Frontiers in Psychiatry (2024)

What is Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD)?

Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD), also known as problematic internet use or compulsive internet use, refers to a behavioral addiction characterized by excessive, compulsive, and uncontrolled use of the internet, leading to negative consequences in various aspects of life.

Similar to other addictive disorders, IAD involves a loss of control over internet use, preoccupation with online activities, and continued use despite adverse effects on physical health, mental well-being, social relationships, and daily functioning.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Preoccupation with the Internet: Spending an excessive amount of time thinking about or engaging in online activities, such as social media, gaming, or browsing.
  • Loss of Control: Difficulty controlling or limiting internet use, despite attempts to cut back or stop altogether.
  • Neglect of Responsibilities: Neglecting important tasks, obligations, or responsibilities in favor of spending time online.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Experiencing irritability, restlessness, or mood swings when unable to access the internet.
  • Interference with Daily Life: Internet use interferes with work, school, relationships, or other daily activities.
  • Escapism: Using the internet as a means of escaping from real-life problems, stress, or negative emotions.
  • Continued Use Despite Consequences: Persisting with internet use despite experiencing negative consequences, such as academic or job performance issues, social isolation, or health problems.


Diagnosing Internet Addiction Disorder can be challenging due to the lack of standardized criteria in psychiatric classification systems like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

However, mental health professionals may assess individuals for IAD based on clinical interviews, self-report questionnaires (e.g., Young’s Internet Addiction Test), and evaluation of functional impairment and distress caused by excessive internet use.

Major Findings: Genetics of Internet Addiction (2024)

Dai et al. explored the association between Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) and a specific genetic variant, rs6313 (T102C) polymorphism, in the serotonin 2A receptor (5-HT2A) gene, HTR2A.

1. Allele & Genotype Frequency Differences

The frequencies of the C and T alleles in the HTR2A T102C polymorphism showed a statistically significant difference between the IAD group and healthy controls (HCs).

Specifically, the C allele frequency was higher in the HCs group (53%) compared to the IAD group (28%), while the T allele frequency was higher in the IAD group (72%) compared to the HCs group (47%).

This suggests a potential genetic predisposition in individuals with IAD towards the T allele of this specific polymorphism.

2. Link to Internet Addiction Disorder

The analysis revealed that the T allele of rs6313 in HTR2A may act as a risk factor for developing IAD.

The distribution of genotypes (CC, CT, TT) showed no significant difference between the IAD and HCs groups overall.

However, the TT genotype’s prevalence in the IAD group compared to the CC+CT combined genotype demonstrated a notable statistical difference, indicating the TT genotype’s potential role in predisposing individuals to IAD.

3. Correlations with Clinical Scores

The study found that the Internet Addiction Test (IAT) score was positively correlated with scores of the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS) and Barratt Impulse Scale (BIS) in IAD patients with the CC+CT genotype.

This suggests a relationship between higher internet addiction severity and greater levels of impulsivity and obsessive-compulsive symptoms in these individuals.

Moreover, the IAT score was also positively correlated with the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) score in IAD patients carrying the TT genotype, indicating a potential link between internet addiction severity and poorer sleep quality among those with the TT genotype.

What do the findings indicate?

These findings suggest that the rs6313 polymorphism in the HTR2A gene is associated with IAD, highlighting a potential genetic underpinning for this disorder.

The T allele appears to be a risk factor for developing IAD, correlating with the severity of internet addiction and associated clinical features such as impulsivity, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, and sleep quality issues.

This association underscores the complex interplay between genetic predispositions and behavioral disorders like IAD, providing valuable insights for future research and potential therapeutic interventions.

rs6313 (T102C) Polymorphism of the HTR2A Gene in Internet Addiction

The rs6313 (T102C) polymorphism, located in the serotonin 2A receptor (HTR2A) gene, has emerged as a significant genetic factor in Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD).

This polymorphism involves a substitution of cytosine (C) for thymine (T) at position 102 of the HTR2A gene, potentially altering the functionality of the serotonin receptor.

Potential Mechanisms

  • Serotonergic Signaling Dysfunction: The HTR2A receptor is crucial in mediating serotonin (5-HT) neurotransmission, which plays a vital role in mood regulation and impulse control. Alterations in HTR2A function due to the rs6313 polymorphism may disrupt serotonergic signaling pathways, leading to dysregulated mood and impulsive behaviors, hallmark features of IAD.
  • Reward Processing Dysfunction: Serotonin receptors, including HTR2A, are involved in reward processing within the brain’s mesolimbic system. Changes in HTR2A activity, influenced by the rs6313 polymorphism, could impact the brain’s response to rewarding stimuli, including those encountered during internet use. Dysfunctional reward processing may contribute to the reinforcement of addictive behaviors associated with excessive internet use.
  • Impaired Cognitive Control: Serotonin receptors are also implicated in cognitive functions such as decision-making and inhibitory control. Variations in HTR2A function, as influenced by rs6313, may impair cognitive control processes, making individuals more susceptible to compulsive internet use and difficulty in regulating online behaviors.
  • Emotional Dysregulation: Serotonin is essential for emotional regulation, and alterations in serotonergic activity have been linked to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, commonly associated with IAD. The rs6313 polymorphism may contribute to emotional dysregulation, exacerbating the psychological symptoms observed in individuals with internet addiction.
  • Interaction with Environmental Factors: While genetics play a significant role, environmental factors also contribute to the development of IAD. The rs6313 polymorphism may interact with environmental influences, such as stress or social isolation, amplifying the risk of internet addiction in susceptible individuals.

Prevalence of rs6313 of HTR2A Gene

The rs6313 polymorphism is relatively common in the general population, with both the T and C alleles present at appreciable frequencies.

However, the exact prevalence of this polymorphism may vary depending on ethnic background and geographic location.

Studies have reported different allele frequencies for rs6313 across diverse populations, indicating its widespread distribution but with regional variations.

The rs6313 (T102C) polymorphism represents a distinct genetic variation in the HTR2A receptor that confers susceptibility to internet addiction and related psychiatric conditions.

Its unique functional impact, clinical relevance, and population-specific frequencies differentiate it from other expressions at the receptor level, highlighting its importance in understanding the genetic basis of addictive behaviors.

Internet Addiction Disorder & 5-HT2A Receptor Polymorphisms (2024 Study)

The primary goal of this study was to investigate whether the rs6313 polymorphism in the 5-HT2A receptor gene is associated with Internet Addiction Disorder, considering the role of serotonin in behavioral addictions.


  • Participants: The study recruited 40 participants, divided into two groups: 20 patients with IAD and 20 healthy controls (HCs).
  • Assessment Tools: Various scales were employed, including Young’s Internet Addiction Test (IAT), Self-Rating Anxiety Scale, Self-Rating Depression Scale, Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS), Barratt Impulse Scale, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), and Social Support Rating Scale (SSRS), to evaluate the severity of internet addiction and related mental health issues.
  • Genotyping: Blood samples were collected from all participants to identify rs6313 polymorphisms in the HTR2A gene through genotyping procedures.


  • Allele & Genotype Frequencies: Significant differences were observed in the allele frequencies between the IAD group (C: 28%, T: 72%) and HCs (C: 53%, T: 47%). However, no significant differences were found in the distribution of CC, CT, and TT genotypes between the two groups.
  • Association with IAD: The T allele of rs6313 in HTR2A was identified as a potential risk factor for IAD. Individuals carrying the TT genotype exhibited a higher likelihood of internet addiction compared to those with CC or CT genotypes.
  • Correlations: The study found a positive correlation between the IAT score and clinical scores (Y-BOCS and BIS) for the CC+CT genotype and a positive correlation between the IAT and PSQI scores for the TT genotype in patients with IAD.


  • Sample Size: The small sample size limits the generalizability of the findings.
  • Specificity to IAD: The study focused exclusively on the rs6313 polymorphism in HTR2A and did not explore other genetic factors that may contribute to IAD.
  • Causal Inference: The design of the study does not allow for causal inferences between the genetic polymorphism and IAD.

Why Research Genetics of Internet Addiction Disorder?

The burgeoning field of genetic research into Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) holds significant promise for elucidating the biological underpinnings of this increasingly prevalent condition.

Understanding the genetic aspects of IAD is vital for several reasons, from identifying individuals at risk to developing targeted therapies.

1. Understanding the Biological Basis of IAD

One of the primary motivations for studying the genetics of internet addiction is to uncover the biological mechanisms that contribute to its development.

Like many psychiatric disorders, IAD is believed to result from a complex interplay between genetic predisposition and environmental factors.

Identifying specific genes that influence the risk of developing IAD can help clarify the biological pathways involved in addiction behaviors, offering insights into the brain’s reward systems, impulse control, and emotional regulation.

2. Identifying Individuals at Risk

Genetic research can also facilitate the early identification of individuals at a higher risk of developing IAD.

By pinpointing specific genetic markers associated with increased susceptibility to internet addiction, it becomes possible to develop screening tools for at-risk populations.

Early identification can lead to the implementation of preventative measures, such as education on healthy internet use, behavioral interventions, and support systems designed to mitigate the risk of developing IAD.

3. Tailoring Prevention & Treatment Strategies

Understanding the genetic factors that contribute to IAD can inform the development of personalized prevention and treatment strategies.

For instance, individuals with a genetic predisposition to impulse control disorders may benefit from targeted interventions focusing on enhancing self-regulation skills.

Similarly, recognizing the role of specific neurotransmitter systems in IAD can guide the selection of pharmacological treatments that address underlying biological imbalances, potentially improving treatment outcomes.

4. Future Therapeutic Interventions

The long-term goal of genetic research in IAD is to pave the way for innovative therapeutic interventions.

For example, gene editing technologies like CRISPR-Cas9 offer the theoretical potential to modify genetic risk factors directly, although such applications remain speculative and ethically complex.

More immediately, understanding genetic vulnerabilities can lead to the development of drugs that target specific pathways implicated in IAD, offering more effective and less invasive treatment options.

5. Advancing Personalized Medicine

The research into the genetics of IAD aligns with the broader movement towards personalized medicine, which seeks to tailor healthcare based on an individual’s genetic makeup, lifestyle, and environment.

By integrating genetic insights with clinical data, healthcare providers can offer more nuanced and effective interventions for people struggling with internet addiction, improving their quality of life and potentially reducing the public health burden of IAD.

Strategies for Prevention & Treatment of Internet Addiction in At-Risk Individuals

Individuals with the rs6313 (T102C) polymorphism in the serotonin 2A receptor (HTR2A) gene may be at an increased risk of developing Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) due to alterations in serotonergic signaling and behavioral regulation.

Implementing preventive and therapeutic strategies tailored to address the genetic predisposition can help mitigate the risk and manage internet addiction effectively.

1. Genetic Screening & Counseling

  • Early Identification: Conduct genetic screening to identify individuals with the rs6313 polymorphism who are predisposed to IAD. Early identification allows for targeted interventions and support tailored to the individual’s genetic risk profile.
  • Genetic Counseling: Provide genetic counseling to individuals and families regarding the implications of the rs6313 polymorphism on internet addiction risk. Educate them about the interplay between genetic predisposition and environmental factors in the development of IAD.

2. Psychoeducation & Behavioral Interventions

  • Psychoeducation: Offer educational programs to raise awareness about internet addiction, its potential genetic determinants, and the importance of healthy internet usage habits.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Implement CBT interventions targeting maladaptive thoughts and behaviors associated with internet addiction. Focus on improving coping strategies, impulse control, and problem-solving skills.

3. Lifestyle Modifications

  • Limiting Screen Time: Encourage individuals at risk to establish boundaries on internet usage and allocate specific time slots for recreational screen time.
  • Balanced Activities: Promote engagement in diverse offline activities such as hobbies, sports, socializing, and mindfulness practices to reduce reliance on internet-based stimuli.

4. Pharmacological Interventions

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): Consider SSRIs as adjunctive therapy for individuals with IAD and the rs6313 polymorphism, targeting serotonin dysregulation implicated in addictive behaviors.
  • Pharmacogenetic Approaches: Utilize pharmacogenetic testing to personalize medication selection and dosage based on individual genetic profiles, optimizing treatment efficacy and minimizing adverse effects.

5. Family & Social Support

  • Family Therapy: Involve family members in therapy sessions to improve communication, set boundaries, and provide mutual support in addressing internet addiction.
  • Peer Support Groups: Facilitate peer support groups or online forums where individuals with IAD and their families can share experiences, exchange coping strategies, and offer encouragement.

6. Mindfulness & Stress Management

  • Mindfulness Practices: Introduce mindfulness-based interventions to enhance self-awareness, emotional regulation, and resilience in managing internet addiction triggers.
  • Stress Reduction Techniques: Teach relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery to alleviate stress and prevent maladaptive coping through excessive internet use.

Conclusion: 5-HT2A Receptor Polymorphism & Internet Addiction

The study on the association between Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) and the rs6313 (T102C) polymorphism in the HTR2A gene marks a significant advancement in understanding the genetic factors contributing to internet addiction.

Identifying the T allele as a potential risk factor for IAD highlights the complex interplay between genetics and behavioral disorders, offering a new perspective on diagnosis and intervention.

The findings pave the way for the development of personalized treatment approaches, leveraging genetic screening to identify at-risk individuals and tailor interventions accordingly.

Furthermore, this research could inform the creation of targeted pharmacological therapies, aiming to address the neurobiological mechanisms underlying IAD.

By laying the groundwork for future investigations into the genetic underpinnings of internet addiction, this study encourages a multidisciplinary approach to tackling this growing concern.

The insights gained from this research offer hope for more effective strategies in preventing, diagnosing, and treating Internet Addiction Disorder, potentially improving outcomes for individuals affected by this condition.


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