Violent video games alter brain function in young men

November 30, 2011

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 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 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 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.

Explore further: Violent video games: aggressive thoughts?

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4 / 5 (4) Nov 30, 2011
I would like to ask why there weren't other groups who played non-violent video games, watched violent movies, or read violent books?
I find it difficult to believe that you can draw such a focused conclusion as below without investigating similar activities.
"These findings indicate that violent video game play has a long-term effect on brain functioning," Dr. Wang said.

Additionally, the "long-term" statement, to me, has no back up in their testing. A two week test that shows the effects on the test subjects diminishing within the first week of stopping is hardly "long-term" effects.

- Justin
4 / 5 (4) Nov 30, 2011
sounds like research funded to justify a political position rather than legitimate research.
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 03, 2011
This study rings of hubris and hyperbole. Any stressor will impact parts of the brain differently. How about intensely competitive sports games? Doesn't that favor the motor cortex over the left inferior frontal lobe as well? Doesn't alcohol affect the prefrontal cortex as well, inhibiting judgement? All this study confirms is that long term motor activity inhibits other areas of the brain. And not all judgements are good. Calculating, scheming and swindling also require emotional intelligence. Emotional numbing happens during final exams. Should we ban schools?

Prefrontal cortex inhibition will happen during any long-term repetitive task, and will cause a similar "long-term effect on brain functioning."

Are there control groups? What about males reading literature intensely for weeks? Won't that show motor cortex inhibition as their waistlines grew, promoting the onset of agility loss and motor reflexes? What is valuable in society and to the individual?
1 / 5 (2) Dec 03, 2011
What nonsense. There's an obvious distinction between a video game and reality.

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