Violent video games alter brain function in young men

A functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) analysis of long-term effects of violent video game play on the brain has found changes in brain regions associated with cognitive function and emotional control in young adult men after one week of game play. The results of the study were presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

The controversy over whether or not violent video games are potentially harmful to users has raged for many years, making it as far as the Supreme Court in 2010. But there has been little scientific evidence demonstrating that the games have a prolonged negative neurological effect.

“For the first time, we have found that a sample of randomly assigned young adults showed less activation in certain frontal brain regions following a week of playing violent video games at home,” said Yang Wang, M.D., assistant research professor in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. “These brain regions are important for controlling emotion and aggressive behavior.”

For the study, 22 healthy adult males, age 18 to 29, with low past exposure to violent video games were randomly assigned to two groups of 11. Members of the first group were instructed to play a shooting video game for 10 hours at home for one week and refrain from playing the following week. The second group did not play a violent video game at all during the two-week period.

Each of the 22 men underwent fMRI at the beginning of the study, with follow-up exams at one and two weeks. During fMRI, the participants completed an emotional interference task, pressing buttons according to the color of visually presented words. Words indicating violent actions were interspersed among nonviolent action words. In addition, the participants completed a cognitive inhibition counting task.

The results showed that after one week of violent game play, the video game group members showed less activation in the left inferior frontal lobe during the emotional task and less activation in the anterior cingulate cortex during the counting task, compared to their baseline results and the results of the control group after one week. After the second week without game play, the changes to the executive regions of the brain were diminished.

“These findings indicate that violent video game play has a long-term effect on brain functioning,” Dr. Wang said.

4 COMMENTS

  1. A question that is not answered by this short news blurb is what sort of words were defined as “violent.” At first glance you might think these scientists might have only used verbs, but if they in fact chose nouns such as “war” or “mob war” the subjects could have shown different reactions due to being familiar with virtual settings. If there was going to be another test like this, I’d make another group hunt, kill, gut, and skin a deer, and include some hunting lingo. This would compare the activity that’s at risk of being demonized with an actual violent activity that is mainstream acceptable.

  2. Technology is powerful and is taking over. Video ga,es are programmed in our young males head which is really harming their state of mind. It’s becoming a habit and a trend. Viloent games tend to be cool to play for young males and I strongly agree because out of all games they tend to like the killing games versus game what girls like to play. It is potentially harmful because these games teaching and processing bad things through the brain. Games are fun to play but certain ones you can’t retian young males from playing. Therefore, know what games are doing to the male brain before it get to late to notice. Addiction is powerful and can be transfereed through by playing games. it’s just like a learning process.

  3. Exactly. Such a study should strongly focus on trying to neutralize other effects that are caused by playing computer. Thus, both groups should have played similar conzepts of computer games (demanding fast reactions, thus quick visual processing and focussing), with the only real difference being the violence factor.
    This study clearly just proofed, that the brain adapts to the new demands of computer playing.

  4. I have a couple concerns with this article/study. Problem one is that they don’t say what the “control group” was actually doing during those 2 weeks. Yes, they were not playing the violent game, but were they playing any games at all? Without this information it’s questionable whether the results are from playing violent video games or just any video games regardless of the violence level.

    Problem 2 is their definition of long-term. one week of play with one week of no play seems very short to me. Even one month is what I would call pretty short. Assuming there’s a long-term effect from 2 weeks of study seems like quite the leap.

    What I would trust much more is a study done with 3 groups, one playing violent/shooting games, one non-violent games, and one playing none at all. For 1 month they would play their assigned genre, and then 2 months without, for a total study period of 3 months. It would be interesting to see their cognitive abilities at the end of each month during the study.Those results would be far more accurate than what they’re trying to pass off here.

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