Study Links Video Games to Addiction
Written by Faith Anderson on November 15, 2011
Frequent Gamers vs. Infrequent Gamers
The study was conducted by European scientists and published in the journal Translation Psychiatry on Tuesday. Psychologist Simone Kuhn of Ghent University in Belgium and colleagues recruited 154 healthy fourteen-year-olds in Berlin, and divided them into two groups. Group one contained twenty-four girls and fifty-two boys who played at least nine hours of video games per week, and group two contained fifty-eight girls and twenty boys who played less than nine hours per week.
Researchers used structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine the differences in participants’ brains, indicating that frequent gamers had more gray matter in a portion of the brain known as the left ventral striatum, which affects the interplay of behavior and emotions. Researchers reported that previous research identified striatal function as a “core candidate promoting addictive behavior.” Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI), researchers also observed changes in the participants’ brains as they took part in a task that simulated anticipating and receiving a reward.
Video Gamers’ Brains Similar to Addicted Gamblers
According to the results, frequent gamers had greater brain activity when they were given feedback that they were losing. Researchers noted that this is similar to the response seen in addicted gamblers, who have elevated levels of the chemical dopamine in the left ventral striatum when they are losing money. Although researchers couldn’t determine whether frequent gamers’ brains increased in size as a result of playing video games or if those kids were attracted to gaming because that part of their brain was enlarged in the first place, discovering the link between brain structure and video games could help researchers understand the role of the brain in addictive behaviors.