Frequent gamers have brain differences, study finds

November 15, 2011 By Eryn Brown

Fourteen-year-olds who were frequent video gamers had more gray matter in the rewards center of the brain than peers who didn't play video games as much - suggesting that gaming may be correlated to changes in the brain, much as addictions are.

European scientists reported the discovery Tuesday in the journal Translational Psychiatry. Psychologist Simone Kuhn of Ghent University in Belgium and colleagues recruited 154 healthy 14-year-olds in Berlin and divided them into two groups. Twenty-four girls and 52 boys were frequent gamers who played at least nine hours of video games each week. Fifty-eight girls and 20 boys were infrequent gamers, who played less than nine hours a week.

Structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed differences in the test subjects' brains. Frequent gamers had more gray matter in a portion of the brain known as the left , which affects the interplay of emotions and behavior. Previous research identified striatal function as a "core candidate promoting addictive behavior," the authors wrote.

Using (fMRI), the team also observed changes in the teens' brains as they participated in a task that simulated anticipating and receiving a reward. They found that frequent gamers had greater when they were given feedback that they were losing. This is similar to a response seen in addicted gamblers, the authors noted, who have increased levels of the brain in the ventral striatum when they are losing money.

The authors wrote that their study is the first to correlate changes in brain structures with video gaming. They couldn't determine if the frequent gamers' brains grew larger as a result of or if those kids were attracted to gaming because that part of their brain was enlarged in the first place; scientists will need to measure the effects of video gaming on structures in the brain over time to figure that out.

But either way, discovering the link between brain structure and video games could help researchers understand the role of the brain in addictive behaviors, they wrote.

"If the striatal differences observed in the current study are indeed an effect of gaming, video gaming might post an interesting option to explore structural changes in addiction in future studies in the absence of any neurotoxic substances," they noted.

Explore further: Put down that Xbox remote: Researcher suggests video games may not boost cognition

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4 comments

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MrVibrating
5 / 5 (1) Nov 15, 2011
Oh no, wait til the Daily Mail get a load of this...

(these sorts of articles ought to come with a disclaimer noting that if you can remember what you ate for breakfast, it's likewise permanently altered the structure of your brain..)
whiteknight
not rated yet Nov 15, 2011
The "Daily Mail", "Times" and the "Telegraph" have already reported on this research.

The headline in the "Telegraph" was: "Addicts of 'Call of Duty' exhibit damaging structural changes to their brains".

A Tory MP was quoted as saying, "This research might shed light onto the root cause of the riots earlier this year".
MrVibrating
not rated yet Nov 16, 2011
lol, the old "change" vs "damage" confusion, ergo ALL skills become neuropathologies. Why are we cursed with these terrible afflictions..?
Birthmark
not rated yet Nov 20, 2011
Everything in moderation. 2 hours a day is beneficial! Let the games begin.or continue.

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