Study of the Day: New Evidence Ties Violent Games to Aggression

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Research shows that violent media can alter regions of the brain that are linked to cognitive function and emotion control in young men

main Sanzhar Murzin shutterstock_74008438.jpg

PROBLEM: Last year, much to Arnold Schwarzenegger's chagrin, the Supreme Court sided with the video game industry and struck down a ban on the rental or sale of violent games to children, citing First Amendment rights in the process. Still, just how harmful are these gruesome games?

METHODOLOGY: Researchers led by Indiana University's Tom Hummer recruited 22 healthy men, age 18 to 29, with low past exposure to violent video games and randomly assigned them to two groups. Members of the first group played a shooting video game for 10 hours at home for one week and refrained from playing the following week. Those in the second group avoided games altogether. At the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of the trial, the participants underwent fMRI scans while completing tasks involving inhibitions and emotions.

RESULTS: After one week of violent gameplay, the brain scans of the young men in the experimental group showed less activation in the left inferior frontal lobe and the anterior cingulate cortex than their baseline scans and the scans of the people in the control group.

CONCLUSION: Grisly video games alter brain regions linked to cognitive function and emotional control in young adult men.

IMPLICATION: Violent media may lead to more aggressive behavior.

SOURCE: The full study, "One Week of Violent Video Game Play Alters Prefrontal Activity," is slated to be presented today in the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

Image: Sanzhar Murzin/Shutterstock.

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Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

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