Violent video game play has a long-term effect on brain functioning.

There could be something to that link between violent video games and aggression. Researchers have bantered back and forth for years with findings that support and then debunk such a link. But Indiana University School of Medicine researchers in Indianapolis found signs via functional magnetic resonance imaging that the brain is affected by violent games.


In the research, being presented this week at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago, the researchers studied 22 healthy men, aged 18 to 29. All were given fMRI scans and were then split into two groups of 11: one that played a Mature-rated first-person shooter game for 10 hours over a week and then did not play for one week, the other that did not play games during the period.

Researchers gave each group follow-up scans at the one-week and two-week mark. During the fMRI, the subjects were given tasks. At the one-week mark, the video game group 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 own previous results and those of the control groups.

On the second week scan, those brain changes were diminished in the video game group. “The activation returned toward baseline but did not completely normalize. We don’t know how long the effect lasts for those who play longer,” says study co-author Dr. Vincent Mathews.

The findings represent the first fMRI research studying long-term effects of violent video game play, says lead author Yang Wang, assistant research professor in the school’s department of radiology and imaging sciences. “These findings indicate that violent video game play has a long-term effect on brain functioning,” he says.


That part of the brain that the gamer group had changes in “is involved in inhibition and emotional modulation,” Mathews says. “(Other researchers) have shown increases in aggression after playing violent video games. We suspect our findings may be a physiological explanation for this.”

The research was supported by the Center for Successful Parenting, which on its site argues for less video games and other media in the lives of children and homes.

This is surely not the final word in the video game violence debate. Ideally, this finding will be tested in a larger, longer study.

Until then, Mathews advices that gamers should “be aware that playing violent video games has an effect on the way the brain functions and consider this when you choose how to spend your leisure time.”

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Via USA Today