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What does neuroimaging tell us about the effects of violent video games on brain functioning?

Neuroimaging refers to the methods (magnetism and radiation) for visualizing characteristics of the brain, such as the size of its parts, blood flow to the parts, and the breakdown of nutrients.

  • Neuroimaging allows researchers to study the relationship between the effects of violent video game playing and the functioning of the brain.
  • Neuroimaging studies show a relationship between exposure to violent video games and unique patterns of brain activation. Activation of the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, which are thought to be associated with emotion, self-control, and aggression have shown to be activated in players of violent video games both during play and after play. This indicates that there is an increased activation of emotion and aggression with a decrease in self-control.
  • Studies are currently being conducted to evaluate the long-term effect of violent video game play on brain functioning.

Anderson, C.A., Berkowitz, L., Donnerstein, E., Huesmann, L.R., Johnson, J.D., Linz, D., Malamuth, N.M., & Wartella, E. (2003). The influence of media violence on youth. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 4, 81-110
Mathews, V.P., Kronenberger, W.G., Wang, Y., Lurito, J.T., Lowe, M.J., & Dunn, D.W. (2005). Media violence exposure and frontal lobe activation measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging in aggressive and nonaggressive adolescents. Journal of Computer Assisted Tomography, 29, 287-292.
Wang, Y., Mathews, V.P., Kalnin, A.J., Mosier, K.M., Dunn, D.W., Saykin, A.J., & Kronenberger, W.G. (in press). Short term exposure to a violent video game induces changes in frontolimbic circuitry in adolescents. Brain Imaging and Behavior.
Weber, R., Ritterfeld, U., & Mathiak, K.(2006). Does playing violent video games induce aggression? Empirical evidence of a functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Media Psychology, 8, 39-60.