Study: Violent Video Games Affect the Brain

A study released Tuesday indicates that violent video games cause noticeably different effects on the brains of teenagers then non-violent ones.

Increased activity was noted in the region of the brain that governs emotions, while activity decreased in the area that deals with self-control, focus, and concentration.

The findings are sure to renew the debate over the safety of such games. The group noted that the video game industry has become a $10 billion per-year business, and is expected to grow with launch of next-generation consoles such as the PlayStation 3.

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For the purposes of the study, the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) allowed 44 teenagers to either play a violent or non-violent game for a period of 30 minutes. The games selected were Medal of Honor: Frontline and Need for Speed: Underground.

After playing the game, MRIs were taken while the subjects performed a series of activities to monitor brain function. Accuracy or reaction time in the tasks did not differ from group to group, however changes in brain function were clearly visible in the MRI scans.

"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," study author and professor of radiology at Indiana University School of Medicine Dr. Vincent Matthews said.

The so-called fight-or-flight response of the brain seemed to be activated after playing the violent game. The effects were short-term, and further research is needed to investigate any possible long-term effects.

"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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