Controversy Analyzed: Your Brain Before and After Shooter Games
12/2/2011 by: Darleen Hartley
Battlefield games, as you know, have generated a battle in the scientific community over their effect. Now radiologists have proved that the brain is changed after playing violent video games.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), doctors have shown that prolonged playing of violent video games has a definite negative neurological effect. The frontal areas of the brain related to cognitive function and emotional control show reduced activity after shoot-em-up gaming.
Current research took place at the Indiana University School of Medicine. The study involved 28 young men ages 18-29 who had minimal violent video game experience. They were evenly divided into a test and a control group. The groups participated in their own homes, not in a laboratory. The test group played a shooting game for 10 hours during one week and none the second week, while the control group did not play at all. Both sets had MRI’s before the study began and follow-up exams one and two weeks after the gaming period.
During the imaging, words indicating violent actions were interspersed among nonviolent action words. The young men also completed a cognitive inhibition counting task. Changes in their performance were noted only in individuals in the test group.
Proof that the brain is changed after playing violent video games
The research team consisted of professionals from the departments of psychiatry, clinical psychology, radiology, and neuroradiology. Yang Wang, M.D., assistant research professor in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences said: "The affected brain regions are important for controlling emotion and aggressive behavior. These effects may translate into behavioral changes over longer periods of game play." The left inferior frontal lobe and the anterior cingulated cortex were specifically affected. Two weeks after ceasing gaming, the brains gradually returned to a state similar to those of the control group.
Violent video games might also teach military history
One writer says: "The shooter genre has become the most popular genre in games… because they're fun and get players' blood flowing." Yes, blood – as in excitement, but also as in carnage and murder. Players can choose military war games, such as Call of Duty: Black Ops, a first-person shooter soldier on fighting missions during the historical Cold War, or shooting underground in tombs and dungeons, or duals in a science fiction setting, such as Crysis 2 where fights with alien invaders take place in the urban jungle of New York City.
Video games are marketed and reviewed in a manner that emphasizes their negative aspects. One reads that "Close Range sets a new standard for first-person shooter games with its vivid graphics and endless stream of exploding faces." Fodder for nightmares?
BioShock 2 makes you feel smart?
We are told that one would want to buy BioShock 2 because "the shooting possesses a layer of strategy that makes you feel smart." How smart can you be to buy a game rated Mature – for Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence? Think about it.
Battlefield 3 touts a new feature, Destruction 3.0, in which debris from explosions can injure or kill players. Whoopee.
A study by Brad Bushman at Ohio State University and Bryan Gibson at Central Michigan University, shows that men who continue to think about the game after it's over increase the potency of the game’s tendency to lead to aggression. Half of their test subjects played violent games, such as Mortal Kombat while the other half were involved in non-violent ones, such as Guitar Hero.
During testing the next day, those men who ruminated about the game afterwards exhibited increased aggression, while those who had not replayed the game in their minds did not. Women, however, tested negative under both circumstances.
Following killing sprees in Norway, the US, and Germany, people are looking for answers. Last year, researchers from the University of Bonn Germany published their test findings in Biological Psychology. Brain scans were taken while control and test subjects viewed photos from the violent games, as well as images of accident and disaster victims.
The left medial frontal lobes that control fear or aggression were less activated in the gamers than in the control subjects. Dr. Christian Montag said: "Compared to people who abstain from first-person shooters, [the test subjects] show clear differences in how emotions are controlled." He concluded that emotional desensitization is not restricted to playing computer games. "We were ultimately able to find the decreased control of emotions in first-person shooters for the real images, too," he said. Thus, he thinks the lack of response is not limited to the virtual world, but extends to daily life.
However, the psychologist concludes: "We will need additional studies to shed some more light on the connections between violent games, brain activity, and actual behavior." At the end of the day, video games probably do affect the way how our brain chemistry works. The equal principle applies to watching aggressive sports, or TV programs. The choice is as always - yours.
Christian Montag, Norway, Germany, Moral Kombat, Guitar Hero, Mature Rating, Brad Bushman, Ohio State University, Bryan Gibson, Central Michigan University, functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI, Indiana University of Medicine, MRI, psychiatry, clinical psychology, radiology, neuroradiology, Yang Wang, Close Range, Crysis 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops, CoD, BO, BioShock 2
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