Violent Video Games Shut Down Teenagers Reasoning while Increasing Emotional Arousal

Violent Video Games Shut Down Teenagers Reasoning while Increasing Emotional Arousal

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Adolescents that played violent video games had a lasting effect on the way their brain worked. They had a sustained increase in activity in the area of the brain that is responsible for emotional arousal. The teens also had a decrease in activity in the area of the brain that is used in executive function which is related to control, focus, and concentration. The study was first presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

"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 Vincent P. Mathews, M.D., professor of radiology at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

In this study, the researchers randomly assigned 44 teenagers to play a violent or non-violent video game for 30 minutes. After the participants played the games the researchers measured brain activity using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). During the fMRI they presented tasks that would measure inhibition and concentration.

While the two groups did not have different capabilities in accuracy or reaction time for the tasks that they were tested on, the brain activity was significantly different on the fMRI.

The group that played the violent video game had less activity in the prefrontal portions of the brain while at the same time had more activation in the amygdala, which is concerned with emotional arousal. The prefrontal portion of the brain is involved with inhibition, concentration, and self-control.

"During tasks requiring concentration and processing of emotional stimuli, the adolescents who had played the violent video game showed distinct differences in brain activation than the adolescents who played an equally exciting and fun—but nonviolent—game," Dr. Mathews said. "Because of random assignment, the most likely factor accounting for these differences would be the group to which the volunteers were assigned."

"Additional investigation of the reasons for and effects of this difference in brain functioning will be important targets for future study, but the current study showed that a difference between the groups does exist," Dr. Mathews said.

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