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Health & Pregnancy

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Violent Video Games Affect Teenage Brain

Long-Term Effects Still Unknown


In his experiment, he used a nonviolent car racing game and a violent action game based on the James Bond character from popular spy novels and movies. Just to be sure that the adolescent volunteers were "fully engaged" in the video, Mathews asked them to "push a button each time a person was shot or each time the car negotiated a turn." The adolescents viewed the video while lying inside the MRI that recorded the firing of nerves in the brain.

The two-year-long study included 19 teens diagnosed with the DBD and 19 normal volunteers. The average age in both groups was 14, and there were only five girls in each group. "Because we had so few girls, we can't make any statements about differences between boys and girls in response to violence," says Mathews.

Asked about brain scan responses to calming or happy games, Mathews says he has not expanded his studies beyond the effect of violent video games, but he says, "There are studies that demonstrate a benefit for meditation." Moreover, he says it may be possible to use fMRI to test the effectiveness of either behavior modification or drug therapy for treatment of aggressive disorders in adolescents.

Mathews backed off from making any blanket statements about the danger of violent video games, but he says, "I think this information gives credence to what has become a growing concern about what is perceived as increased violence among adolescents."

NPD Funworld, a trade publication that tracks the video game industry, reported last week that the video game industry is expected to earn $10 billion in 2002, with sales of games rated "mature" for violence the fastest growing segment of the game industry -- now responsible for 13% of sales compared with 6% in 2001. The market leader is the mature-rated game Grand Theft Auto 3 by Rockstar Games. It was rated the best selling video game of 2001 with U.S. sales topping 4.2 million copies.

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