Several studies have already proven that prolonged or excessive video game play on children, in particular, causes increased aggressive or violent behavior. But why exactly? And what, in particular, triggers this? Researchers try to unravel more about this behavioral effect by taking a closer look at the brain’s activity before, during and after playing violent video games.
Dr. Vincent Matthews and his colleagues performed MRI scans on the brains of 28 young men, as they accomplished lab-based tasks involving emotional or non-emotional content. These subjects were randomly made to play either a violent, first-person shooter game or a non-violent video game every day for a week. The same MRI scan while performing lab-based tasks were performed after the men played the video games for a week.
Results showed that those who played violent video games had less brain activity involved with emotions, attention or inhibition of impulses. Matthews and his team believe that this is most likely associated with the increase in aggressive behavior after playing violent video games.
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While the brain activity returned to normal after the subjects stopped playing video games, the readings weren’t the same as in the initial MRI scans before the experiment.
Another study involved subjects’ responses to violent and non-violent words, each presented in different hues. They were asked to identify the color of the words and since we tend to first process the meaning of words, there was an expected delay in the identification of the color.
Those who played non-violent games exhibited the normal rate of delay in identifying the color, but they also showed an increase in brain activity in the emotional portions of the brain when they were shown violent words. Those who were playing non-violent games, on the other hand, showed remarkably less activity in the parts of the brain involved with emotions.
Another experiment also revealed that those who played violent video games had poorer concentration and attention. The subjects were showed a series of numbers and afterwards were made to press a button not to indicate what numbers were shown, but how many times certain numbers were shown. Those playing violent video games for a week showed less activity in the brain involved with concentration and attention.
Matthews notes that while most gamers may beg to disagree that video game play has detrimental effects to the brain, the results of the study show that it is definitely a matter of concern.
Adds Matthews, “People need to be aware there are changes in the brain when parents allow their children, or (when) adults themselves choose to spend their leisure time playing violent games.”