Violent Video Games Alter Brain Functioning in Imaging Study
Wendling, Patrice, Clinical Psychiatry News
CHICAGO -- Adolescents who play violent video games demonstrate distinct alterations in brain activation on functional magnetic resonance imaging, investigators have shown for the first time.
In a study of 44 healthy adolescents, the teenagers who played violent video games demonstrated less activation in the frontal lobes associated with inhibition, concentration, and self-control, and more activation in the amygdala, which governs emotional arousal, Dr. Vincent Mathews reported at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.
Additional research is needed to determine if this combination of effects could make these individuals more likely to engage in violent behavior. But for now, the study provides parents, physicians, and scientists with data proving that differences in brain function exist in teens who play violent video games, compared with those who don't.
"The fact [that] we are seeing something should at least alert people to the fact [that] something is going on, and that they should be concerned with the types and amount of media they and their children are exposed to," said Dr. Mathews in an interview.
He and his colleagues at Indiana University, Indianapolis, randomly assigned the adolescents to play either "Medal of Honor," a violent video game, or "Need for Speed," an equally exciting but nonviolent game, for 30 minutes immediately before imaging.
Functional MRI data were acquired on a 3-Tesla scanner using a 2D gradient echo-planar imaging sequence during two modified Stroop paradigms.
In the emotional Stroop task, participants pressed different buttons according to the color of the visually presented words. Words indicating violent actions such as "hit" or "harm" were interspersed with nonviolent action words such as "run" or "walk. …