Teenagers’ brains are fired up by violent video games, while at the same time areas of the brain associated with self control become subdued, say researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Dr. Vincent Mathews, head researcher, explained that this study shows, for the first time, that violent video games affect the physiology of the brain and the way it functions. He said the teenagers had increased activity in the amygdala, an area of the brain involved in emotional arousal. “At the same time, they had decreases in activity in parts of the brain which are involved in self-control,” he said.

Video games are big business – in the USA alone sales hit over $10 billion in 2005.

44 teenagers were randomly asked to either play a violent video game or a non-violent one, for half-an-hour, after which they underwent an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging). An fMRI measures changes that take place in the active brain in real time. The teenagers of either group did not differ in age, IQ or gender.

They found that those who had played the violent games had more activity going on in the amygdala, as opposed to the teenagers who played the non-violent games (who did not have more activity there). Those playing the violent games also had lower activity in prefrontal areas of the brain – these areas are associated with self control, inhibition and focus (concentration), compared to the non-violent game players (who did not have lower activity there).

The researchers said further studies are needed to determine whether these physiological changes make individuals behave more violently.

Dr. Mathews presented the findings at the Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

“Short-term Effects of Violent Video Game Playing: An fMRI Study”
Vincent Mathews, M.D., Yang Wang, M.D., Andrew J. Kalnin, M.D., Kristine M. Mosier, D.M.D., Ph.D., David W. Dunn, M.D., and William G. Kronenberger, Ph.D
Click here to view abstract online

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today