Along with the requisite fuzzy slippers, ugly sweaters and loads of toys, your holiday season will likely include a bunch of video games for a special boy or girl in your life. However, you may want to check the content of these games before you start to wrap them: new research shows that violent video games may change your teen's brain.
It doesn't seem farfetched that violent video games would lead to violence in the children playing them, but researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine have found that these video games affect regions of the brain responsible for decision-making, self-control and the ability to pay attention.
"Our study indicates that playing a certain type of violent video game may have different short-term effects on brain function than playing an exciting but nonviolent game," said Dr. Vincent P. Mathews, professor of radiology and principal investigator of the study.
For the study, Matthews and colleagues had 44 adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17 play a videogame for 30 minutes. The game was either violent, featuring military combat, or a non-violent car racing game. Afterwards, the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure any changes in their brain activity. The results of the study were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.
Those adolescents who played the violent game showed an increase in brain activity in the amygdala, a region of the brain associated with emotional arousal. This same group had less activity in areas of the brain that help maintain control, focus and concentration as compared to the teens playing the non-violent game.
In contrast, teens who played the nonviolent game showed more activity in the regions of the brain linked to inhibition and self-control. They also showed less activity in the areas that control emotional arousal.
"We can attribute the difference between the groups specifically to the type of game played," said Dr. William Kronenberger, associate professor of psychology at the Indiana University School of Medicine.