Can video games make kids more violent? A new study employing state-of-the-art brain-scanning technology says that the answer may be yes. Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine say that brain scans of kids who played a violent video game showed an increase in emotional arousal – and a corresponding decrease of activity in brain areas involved in self-control, inhibition and attention. Does this mean that your teenager will feel an uncontrollable urge to go on a shooting rampage after playing “Call of Duty?” Vince Mathews, the principal investigator on the study, hesitates to make that leap. But he says he does think that the study should encourage parents to look more closely at the types of games their kids are playing. “Based on our results, I think parents should be aware of the relationship between violent video-game playing and brain function.” Mathews and his colleagues chose two action games to include in their research -- one violent the other not. The first game was the high-octane but non-violent racing game “Need for Speed: Underground.” The other was the ultra-violent first-person shooter “Medal of Honor: Frontline.” The team divided a group of 44 adolescents into two groups, and randomly assigned the kids to play one of the two games. Immediately after the play sessions, the children were given MRIs of their brains. The scans showed a negative effect on the brains of the teens who played “Medal of Honor” for 30 minutes. That same effect was not present in the kids who played “Need for Speed.” The only difference? Violent content.
What’s not clear is whether the activity picked up by the MRIs indicates a lingering — or worse, permanent — effect on the kids’ brains. And it’s also not known what effect longer play times might have. The scope of this study was 30 minutes of play, and one brain scan per kid, although further research is in the works. OK. But what about violent TV shows? Or violent films? Has anyone ever done a brain...
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