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Violent videos affect teen brain functions, study shows
Scripps Howard News Service


November 29, 2006
Wednesday AM

A new study that examined brain function in 44 teens after they played videogames found that those who played violent games have lingering effects on brain functions that heighten emotional arousal and suppress self-control and concentration.




"Our study suggests that playing a certain type of violent videogame may have different short-term effects on brain function than playing a non-violent, but exciting, game," said Dr. Vincent Matthews, a professor of radiology at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

He presented the findings Tuesday during the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, in Chicago.

Although videogames carry ratings for age appropriateness and content, gaming-industry critics have complained that labels don't always match the content.

One recent study suggests that almost half of those who are "heavy users" (play videogames more than an hour a day) are aged 6 to 17.

And other studies have indicated that teens who play violent videogames do worse in school and may be more prone to risky behavior and arguments with teachers, no matter whether the students are boys or girls.

Matthews and colleagues randomly assigned the 44 male and female teens to play either a violent videogame or a nonviolent videogame for 30 minutes. They then did functional magnetic resonance imaging of brain function as each subject did a series of tasks to measure inhibition and concentration.

The brain scans measure levels of energy that change as different areas of the brain are activated.

Compared with the group that played the nonviolent games, the group that played violent videos showed less activation of the prefrontal portions of the brain, which are involved in inhibition, concentration and control, and more activity in the amygdale, which is involved in emotional arousal.

"The adolescents who had played the violent videogames showed distinct differences in brain activation than the adolescents who played an equally exciting and fun, but nonviolent, game,'' Matthews said. "Because of random assignment, the most likely factor accounting for these differences would be the group to which volunteers were assigned."

Matthews said his team plans to conduct more studies on the long-term effects of violent videogame exposure, particularly the different impacts on brain function regions.


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