The first study of its kind was presented recently at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. The study tested two groups of men between the ages of 18-25 and had one group play for 2 hours every day over a week a violent video game (rated mature). Using functional MRIs of the brain, the researchers were able to show that the violent game players’ brain reduced it’s functional capacity in the region of the brain involved in attention, inhibition, and the monitoring of emotions. It’s the first study to document the effects of violent video games on brain activity.
The subjects in the study were given computers loaded with a first-person shooter video game and were asked to play 2 hours daily for a week, followed by one week of no game play. The control refrained from video games. This study revealed these findings only after 30 minutes of violent game playing.
The detrimental effects of violent games described in previous behavioral studies include desensitization to violence and affirmation of the concept of observational learning in which repeated exposure to violent behavior is rewarded. Other detrimental effects include behavior and learning that counteracts positive environmental influences.
While previous studies have demonstrated adverse and violent behavioral changes in persons who regularly play violent video games, this is the first study to actually prove the brain undergoes nerve-cell changes during and after playing these games. In spite of this evidence it will probably make no difference in the movement to limit these games to adults only, at least without a court decision.
A new California law is being debated in the Supreme Court that would forbid selling violent video games to minors. While some justices support the law, others are raising concerns about free speech. Because of the certainty that success in the video industry hinges on violence it is unlikely that the industry will change on its own, or self-regulate.
Here is a list of the 10 top-selling violent video games on the market. If your teenager is playing any of these regularly it’s more likely than not that the areas of his brain that control inhibition, attention, and the monitoring of emotions is being affected.
Gears of War
Soldier of Fortune
God of War
Condemned 2: Bloodshot
The adage “you are what you think” or “as a man thinketh so is he” may now have been vindicated by science.