Violent video game effects linger in brain
CHICAGO, Illinois (Reuters) -- Teens who play
violent video games show increased activity in areas of
the brain linked to emotional arousal and decreased
responses in regions that govern self-control, a study
released on Tuesday found.
The study used functional magnetic resonance imaging to
record tiny metabolic changes in brain activity in 44
adolescents who were asked to perform a series of tasks
after playing either a violent or nonviolent video game
for 30 minutes.
The children, with no history of behavior problems,
ranged in age from 13 to 17. Half played a T-rated
first-person shooter game called "Medal of Honor:
Frontline," involving military combat, while the other
group played a nonviolent game called "Need for Speed:
Those who played the violent video game showed more
activation in the amygdala, which is involved in emotional
arousal, and less activation in the prefrontal portions of
the brain associated with control, focus and concentration
than the teens who played the nonviolent game.
"Our study suggests that playing a certain type of
violent video game may have different short-term effects
on brain function than playing a nonviolent, but exciting,
game," said Dr. Vincent Mathews, a professor of radiology
at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis
and the study's author.
After playing the games, the children completed tasks
requiring concentration and processing of emotional
stimuli while their brain activity was scanned.
Alterations in brain function reflecting changes in blood
flow appeared as brightly colored areas on the magnetic
"What we showed is there is an increase in emotional
arousal. The fight or flight response is activated after
playing a violent video game," Mathews said.
The findings were presented at a meeting of the
Radiological Society of North America.
The $13 billion U.S. video game industry, with revenue
rivaling Hollywood box office sales, is at the center of a
cultural battle over violent content. Lawmakers' various
attempts to ban the sale of violent video games to
children have been blocked by courts in Louisiana,
Illinois, California. Michigan and Minnesota.
Video games with a T-rating (for Teen) are considered
suitable for ages 13 and older. They may contain violent
content, strong language or suggestive themes.
Numerous behavioral and cognitive studies have linked
exposure to violent media and aggressive behavior. Now,
researchers are using advanced imaging technology to scan
the brain for clues to whether violent video games cause
increases in aggression.
Mathews said he hopes to conduct additional studies on
the long-term effects on brain function of exposure to
violent video games.