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Health & Parenting

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Violent Video Games May Rev Teen Brain

Not Yet Clear if Temporary Effect Seen on Brain Scans Affects Behavior
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 29, 2006 -- When teens play violent video games, they may get more emotionally revved up than if they play nonviolent video games.

That's according to research presented yesterday in Chicago at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

"Our study suggests that playing a certain type of violent video game may have different short-term effects on brain function than playing a nonviolent -- but exciting -- game," Vincent Mathews, MD, says in an RSNA news release.

Mathews is a radiology professor at Indiana University's medical school.

He and his colleagues studied 34 healthy adolescents who were randomly assigned to play violent or nonviolent video games for half an hour.

Immediately afterward, the players took two attention tests.

One test presented a list of words -- some of which were violent (such as "hit" or "harm") -- that were written in various colors. Participants were asked to note each word's color.

In the other test, players were told to count objects on a computer screen.

During both tests, the researchers scanned participants' brains with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

The brain scans showed more activity in brain areas tied to emotional arousal -- and less activity in brain areas linked to self-control -- in the violent video game group.

The researchers took players' history of exposure to violent media into account.

More studies are needed to understand the difference in the two groups' brain scans, "but the current study showed that a difference between the groups does exist," Mathews says.

He and his colleagues note that they don't yet know if the temporary effect seen in the brain scans has any relationship to violent behavior.

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