US radiologists claim to have shown for the first time that playing violent videogames has an effect on parts of the brain that control emotion.
The study, carried out by the department of radiology and imaging sciences at Indiana University School Of Medicine, split a group of 22 men aged 18 to 29, none of whom were regular gamers, into two. The first group played a shooter for 10 hours in a week, then refrained from playing at all in the second week. The other group played no violent games at all.
MRI scans were carried out at the beginning, middle and end of the study while the participants completed two tests, one assessing emotional interference and the other cognitive inhibition.
The scans showed that after a week of playing a violent game, the gamers "showed less activation in the inferior frontal lobe during the emotional task and less activation in the anterior cingulate cortex during the [second] task." At the end of the second week, in which no games were played, the effect was diminished.
Yang Wang, assistant research professor in the department of radiology and imaging sciences at Indiana University School of Medicine, said: "For the first time, we have found that a sample of randomly assigned young adults showed less activation in certain frontal brain regions following a week of playing violent videogames at home.
"These brain regions are important for controlling emotion and aggressive behaviourů These findings indicate that violent videogame play has a long-term effect on brain functioning."
Except, of course, they don't appear to indicate that at all: even the Daily Mail notes that frontal lobe activity is affected when we learn any new skill. Michael Lipton, of Albert Einstein College Of Medicine in New York, told Medical News Today: "There have been a lot of studies that expose patients to novel behaviours, and you see changes in brain activity that then go away over time. The problem is, how does that translate into real-world functionality?"
It's a tiny sample, too: why only 22 people, and why only violent games? Why only men? If the change in brain function diminishes after a week, in what way does the research prove any long-term effect? It's a report that poses more questions than it answers - questions we'll be putting to its authors.
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