Media Violence May Affect Children's Minds
Exposure to Media Violence May Alter Brain Activity in Nonviolent Children
June 10, 2005 -- Watching violent television programs or video games may
affect children's minds even if they don't have a history of aggressive
behavior, a new study shows.
Researchers found nonaggressive children who had been exposed to high levels
of media violence had similar patterns of activity in an area of the brain
linked to self-control and attention as aggressive children who had been
diagnosed with disruptive behavior disorder.
"This observation is the first demonstration of differences in brain
function being associated with media violence exposure," says researcher
Vincent Mathews, MD, of the Indiana University School of Medicine, in a news
Although this study shows a link between violent media exposure and brain
function differences, researchers say more study is needed before they know if
the violent media exposure caused these differences.
Violence May Change the Brain
In the study, researchers measured activity in the frontal cortex (the front
part) of the brain in two groups of 14 boys and five girls while they performed
a task requiring concentration. Less activity in the frontal cortex has been
associated with problems with self-control and attention.
One group of children was considered aggressive and had been diagnosed with
disruptive behavior disorder and the other had no history of behavior
About half of the children in each group had been exposed to high levels of
media violence, as defined as a higher than average amount of time spent each
week watching television programs or playing video games depicting human
As expected, the results showed that all of the aggressive children had
reduced activity in their frontal cortex while completing the task, regardless
of their levels of media violence exposure.
But researchers found that nonaggressive children who had high levels of
media violence exposure also displayed a similar pattern of low activity in the
frontal cortex. Children in this group who weren't exposed to high levels of
media violence had more frontal cortex activity.
"We found high rates of exposure to violent television and video games
in teens, but we are just beginning to explore the possible implications of
this exposure for brain and behavioral development," says researcher
Kronenberger, PhD, of Indiana University, in the release. "There are myriad
articles showing that exposure to violent TV, especially, causes individuals to
be more aggressive. We are studying the neurological and self-control processes
that underlie the aggressive behavior."