Gaming Brain Studies & Who’s Behind Them

By John Walker on November 29th, 2011 at 11:09 am.

Turns out there's only so many times you can read violence before it looks REALLY weird.

A number of people have got in touch to let us know about a new study that has been published, identifying once again that violent videogames may have an effect on the brain of the player. It’s a finding that, in general, is worth taking notice of – last week I wrote about a meta-analysis discussion conducted by Nature that showed a consensus amongst researchers that there is a noticeable change in the brain after prolongued exposure to violent videogames. However, things get more interesting when you dig into who was funding it. Which turns out to be a campaign group who have some dubious claims of their own.

The study (co-authored by Dr. Vincent P. Matthews), as reported by PRNewswire, by a group at the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences at the Indiana University School Of Medicine conducted functional MRI scans on 22 men between 18 and 29, who had “low exposure” to violent videogames in the past. They were split into two groups of 11, half of which played a “shooting video game” for ten hours over a week, and then not play at all the following week. The second group did not play any violent games at all. The first group went on to become rich and successful, while the second group were all found dead in a ditch. Wait, no, sorry – I’m lying.

Instead fMRIs were carried out before the study, one week in, and at the end of the second week, during which they completed an “emotional interference task”, which involves pressing buttons according to the colour of visually presented words, as well as a cognitive inhibition counting task. Whatever those might be. The results of this demonstrated that those who were playing the violent videogames showed less activation in the left inferior frontal lobe for the emotional task, and less activation in the anterior cingulate cortex for the counting task, than those who had been weaving daisies into their hair for a week. A week later, after neither group had been playing games, the game playing gang saw diminished effects.

Dr Yang Wang of the research department, somewhat confusingly, “These findings indicate that violent video game play has a long-term effect on brain functioning.” Because the results, to my layman’s eye, would indicate they have a short-term effect.

It’s important to note a couple of things. Firstly, these results showed changes in regions of the brain, but absolutely did not show that the individuals involved demonstrated any violent or aggressive behaviour. These are regions of the brain associated with aggression and violence, and the results appear to show that violent videogames are affecting those regions. It’s noteworthy, and clearly something that should grab our attention. (In fact, it’s something I’m looking into in more detail, for a later article.) However, it is not, as newspapers like the Daily Mail of course leapt to conclude, that violent games “DO make people aggressive”, as their rather defiant headline put it.

Also, as far as I can tell this paper has yet to be published, which means it’s not been appropriately scrutinised. It’s to be revealed tomorrow at the annual shindig of the Radiological Society of North America. As such, I’ve not been able to read it for myself, and thus not see their data, nor their stated flaws.

Photo by Daniel Bauer

And finally, when you see a story like this, it’s always worth looking at where the funding came from. And this time it was from a group called The Center For Successful Parenting, whose stated goal is “to help parents understand the consequences of our children viewing video violence”. Which might suggest they’ve already rather made their minds up. But of course they could be a science-focused, results-based organisation. But, well, that slightly falls down at the first hurdle, when you look at their “NEWS UPDATES” section, which impressively seems to begin in 1945.

“Television was introduced in 1945

From 1945 to 1974 homicides in the United States increased 93%”

Oh come on.

From 1900 to 1945 homicide rates in the US increased 400%! Based on those figures I’m claiming the arrival of television massively prevented homicide! And why do these figures mysteriously stop in 1974, despite the world having aged a little since then? Because since 1974 homicide rates in the US have rather awkwardly been falling. This isn’t the sort of organisation I really want to be behind the scientific data I’m studying. (Also, as an aside, in their mission statement they explain that “Our culture used to protect the innocence of our children.” Um, when was that exactly? I’m struggling to put my finger on that period in history when children were more protected than they are right now.)

Photo by Tara Hunt

And who are The Center For Successful Parenting? Well, that’s pretty hard to find out, since even their own terms or service and privacy policy links are just text on a jpg. They’re a registered charity with a pretty impressive revenue stream. And beyond that their director is called Dr. Larry Ley, that’s all I’ve been able to dig up. Attempts to contact them by their email address failed, as the address stated on their site appears to be invalid. But it’s not the first time they’ve funded a study like this.

In 2005 a research group, featuring that Dr. Vincent P. Matthews I mentioned at the start, published similar findings, also funded by the Center For Successful Parenting.

Then in 2006 a study demonstrating harmful effects on the brain found its way to the press, which just happened to have one Dr. Vincent P. Matthews at the helm, and, gosh, was funded by The Center For Successful Parenting. It might just be me, but I think I’m detecting a pattern.

Naturally I have nothing against parenting advocacy groups, who wish to protect children and educate others to do the same. However, when they spread spurious claims, obfuscate the facts, selectively pluck findings that match their agenda, and use sensationalist language like “brain washing” and “shocking” in reporting scientific findings, there’s a problem.

Of course, their funding the research does not necessarily bias the research, there’s no evidence to suggest that the research group are anything other than science-focused and pursuing the truth, and the findings to be revealed tomorrow do appear to correlate to the consensus, that playing violent games has an effect on the brain. How serious that effect is, and how it may manifest, and what other less infamous activities may cause similar effects is not yet known, and without this information there’s a limit to what we can conclude. I’m pursuing that angle, and speaking to researchers to find out more, as I believe it’s one of the most important questions gamers should be asking, for themselves and for their children.

, , , , .

120 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    thristhart says:

    I love you guys.

    Especially you, John. Thanks for doing the legwork so that we don’t have to.

    *thumbsup*

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      Seconded, actually one of the few that seems to look at it logically.

      This is why I only go to RPS for videogame news.

    • Premium User Badge

      Richard Beer says:

      Thirded. This is proper journalism. It’s a shame the majority of journalists seem to think this kind of thing is an irritating optional extra.

      Thanks for setting the bar, John.

    • Keilnoth says:

      Fourded, I really like to throw those kinds of articles in the face of whoever states anything stupid about video game.

      Thanks !

    • looper says:

      Fifted!(?)

    • Drayk says:

      This should be widely forwarded ! Thanks for the real investigation work done here.

    • whiskeyriver says:

      Excellent work digesting that. Good assertions about violence/murder rate.

      This is the safest time in history to be a human:

      Edit: Read this book “Steven Pinker – The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined”

    • Premium User Badge

      P7uen says:

      *cheers heartily*

    • Lev Astov says:

      I came here to say the same thing. I love you, RPS!

    • Parable says:

      Agreed. It’s articles like this that make my day, irrefutable facts against the spew of nonsense that is Fox News and Daily Mail. They also need to do a study on a /much/ larger group of /varied/ individuals before it could ever be considered valid.

    • Premium User Badge

      BathroomCitizen says:

      I love these articles!

      Keep up the good work, John.

    • Caleb367 says:

      I wish I had twenty-three thumbs so I could thumb this up like a boss.

      However, @parable: a serious study gos exactly like you say, a made-up fearmongering and moneygrabbing scheme does not. Taken out of contest, any number can be used to imply everything you want, and don’t think Fox, Greenfield or whoever don’t know that, ’cause that’s exactly what they’ve been doing for years. Heck, the Pastafarians mock this with their correlation between CO2 pollution and pirates.

  2. wu wei says:

    It’s one paper, which has yet to be peer reviewed, and that’s a terribly small sample size to be making such bold statements.

    I’m not sure how it is in the US, but right now in the UK & Australia at least research is the major focus at universities, because it’s now the basis for funding. So don’t be surprised to see a lot more junk research backed by private interest groups, it’s all for sale now.

    • Catalyst says:

      The downside, however, is that even this apparently rather biased and poorly executed research will be construed as scientific fact by people, who cannot be bothered to take a critical look at it :/

  3. MiniMatt says:

    Yoghurt knitting for a week will cause changes to the brain. Stroking kittens for a week will cause changes to the brain.

    As you say, at no point does it appear we’ve got anything to link a cause (doing some activity) to an effect of “overwhelming desire to go on a rage fuelled killing spree”. That said, last time I read the Mail I was very nearly overcome by such a desire.

    • Baf says:

      Exactly right. Any experience will affect the brain, because that’s pretty much the definition of “experience”. If they’re claiming that it damages the brain, that’s another matter. But it really doesn’t look like they’re claiming that.

      This isn’t to say that the data is valueless. As long as they’re keeping records of exactly what parts of the brain it affects, we can possibly learn something by comparing it to the effects of other experiences. In particular, I’d like to see a follow-up study that examines the effects of two other experiences: watching violent movies, and playing non-violent videogames. As it is, they’re treating “violent video games” as a single variable when it’s pretty clearly two. If playing Bulletstorm turns out to have exactly the same effects on the brain as playing The Undergarden, then calling it the effect of “playing violent videogames” would be as nonsensical as, say, talking about the increase in the divorce rate among women.

    • Josh W says:

      It’s tricky to even define damage, given that passing through adolescence naturally takes loads of your neurons, just like many kinds of psychotic break!

      (There may be differences in where the cell death/disconnections occur though)

  4. DNyeEverything says:

    “From 1945 to 1974 homicides in the United States increased 93%”

    And, by the same correlation-equals-causation logic, TV was single-handedly responsible for ending World War 2.

    Go TV!

    • Rusty says:

      Post hoc, ergo – SQUIRREL!

    • Shuck says:

      Ha, yes. Their inability to correlate the end of World War II with an increase in violence is quite telling – their agenda clearly triumphs over basic reasoning skills. (I mean, gee, why might the murder rate decrease previous to 1945, when the country’s population of young men was artificially reduced, and increase when those same young men, having spent the last couple years killing people, were returned to their highly disrupted lives? I can’t imagine – it must be television!)

  5. bleeters says:

    I’ll catch up on the full article when I’ve got a bit of time to do so, but just wanted to quickly say:

    Daily Mail article, picture, small child playing Grand Theft Auto (four?), a game entirely unintended for someone that age.

    Sigh.

  6. kael13 says:

    Mmm, this fits in well with the Radio 4 programme I was listening to on my drive home from work yesterday. Mixing science into politics is fatal when time and again it proves people choose to ignore data which doesn’t coincide with their views.

    • youthful cynic says:

      The problem is politicians who have a desperately poor understanding of science and a public who don’t know any better to pick them up on it. It’s all in education as usual – or lack thereof.

  7. AbsoluteDestiny says:

    Jesse Schell did a lovely deconstruction of the violent video games debate at Games for Change earlier this year, it’s well worth a watch:

    http://vimeo.com/25681002

  8. Tams80 says:

    That’s a great sample size they have there…

  9. Hoaxfish says:

    they completed an “emotional interference task”, which involves pressing buttons according to the colour of visually presented words, as well as a cognitive inhibition counting task.

    I don’t care about the rest of the article…. when is the Wot I Think coming for this?

  10. CMaster says:

    Ah, I love fMRI, turned to by so many questionable researchers when they can’t find an actual link. Look, something happens in the brain when people do this! Something different! Violent video games even make this dead salmon rewire its brain!

    • Premium User Badge

      bglamb says:

      I would imagine that something actually does happen in a live brain whenever you do anything. That’s not news, that’s just the brain being the brain.

    • CMaster says:

      @bglamb
      That’s what I was getting at. If you don’t think you can find any behavioural link (although actually you almost certainly can – I know I think differently after a week of nothing but gaming – just probably not in the way they want) you can almost certainly use fMRI to show that something has changed – just not anything particularly informative.

    • gekitsu says:

      @cmaster: WORD!

      making those pretty fmri pictures where everyone can see how the colors change seem to be the hot go-to thing these days. all the premises that make colored areas on pictures mean something in peoples minds are never questioned, or even investigated. it starts and ends with “wow, the colors changed, thus HEADLINE!”.

      lets say we test people, and their brain colors change. lets say further, that surprisingly, the people are still the same people we knew from before the test. none changed their behaviour, or became more volatile, or anything. (most likely still exhibiting the normal bits of inaccuracy, i.e. having a good or bad day)

      BUT IT CANT BE! THE BRAIN COLORS CHANGED!
      science theory 101 #1: causation is induced from correlation. (by humans employing a method)
      science theory 101 #2: all theory has to be adapted to match the facts, not the other way round.

      but if the colors on the brain picture changed, all bets are off.

  11. Premium User Badge

    bglamb says:

    I wouldn’t let yourself get so upset by all of this horse-shit John. An important part of the scientific process is that the method, data and conclusions are *peer reviewed*.

    These people may be doing experiments, and publishing their findings, but lots of people do that. It’s only considered ‘scientific’ when the greater scientific community supports it and it is published in a respected, peer-reviewed scientific journal.

    As for the Daily Mail, I wouldn’t expect many of the other stories in the paper to be based any more in reality than this one is.

    Anybody who cares about science knows that this isn’t it. Anybody who doesn’t gets the same shit about every subject under the sun, from whatever joker wants to put on a white coat that week.

    So why get yourself so worked up?

    • Ovno says:

      Simply because the media don’t give a shit whether or not something has been peer reviewed and publish it anyway, claiming its hard fact and cause all sorts of damage for instance what happened with MMR a scandal for which the Dr in question has since been struck off the medical register…

    • Premium User Badge

      bglamb says:

      Yeah, but the media publish loads of shit on every topic.

      They’re pretty bad at reporting science in particular, and video games specifically.

      My point is, if you’re going to get annoyed, get annoyed at science reporting. Or just get annoyed at The Daily Mail in general.

      It seems silly to wave and shout that a newspaper printed a biased story. It’s not exactly news.

    • deejayem says:

      Waving and shouting is exactly the right response. When misleading stories are reported, they absolutely must be challenged – otherwise lobby groups and vested interests are allowed to speak for all of us. It’s especially important in this era of governments hyper-sensitive to headlines, where rent-a-mob lobbyist rumour mills can influence government policy.

    • battles_atlas says:

      Perhaps he’s getting worked up because this is being publicised in the public domain, and hence is being read by actual people, who are forming opinions based upon it?

      “It seems silly to wave and shout that a newspaper printed a biased story. It’s not exactly news.”

      We kill an awful lot of foreign civilians on the grounds of national security. By your logic we shouldn’t get worked up about that either right?

    • Premium User Badge

      bglamb says:

      I agree that we should care about it, but the problem is much more general than this piece.

      Saying “OMG, look how bad this story is” is missing the point that most other stories about science in *all* newspapers, and most other stories *not* about science in this newspaper are just as bad.

      This makes it look like this particular article is the problem, when really it’s a symptom.

      I’m definitely not saying we shouldn’t care. But when someone comes up to me and says “You’ll never guess what rubbish they printed in The Sun today”, then I’ll reply “I probably can guess, and I don’t care.”

      I know that there is rubbish printed, and I know people take it seriously, and I’d love to see an article talking about the problem. But bringing another example to the table just shouldn’t interest people at this stage.

      I feel like I’ve read this same article on RPS half a dozen times this year. They keep saying “Look! They’ve done it again!”.

      Yeah, I know they’ve done it again. They do it every day and it’s terrible. You don’t need to walk me through another example.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      Let’s remember that peer review isn’t a gold standard, it’s just the least worst way of doing things.

      A lot of shit gets through peer review and a lot of good stuff can get held up in the process for petty personal reasons. For the most part it works but it ain’t perfect.

    • deejayem says:

      bglamb, do you not care because you’re bored, or do you not care because you don’t think this kind of reporting affects you?

      The former is a shame. The latter is, forgive me, somewhat naive. As I said above, government policy is increasingly formed on the basis of these shrill campaigns, and any article that encourages informed, two-sided debate in the face of partisan polemic is to be encouraged.

    • Premium User Badge

      bglamb says:

      I don’t think you understand what I’m saying.

      If I’ve got Acne, I’ll care that I have Acne. I’ll tell my doctor I’ve got Acne and ask for help.

      I’m not going to phone him up every day and say “Doc, I think I found another spot.”

      If I did, I would expect him to get bored of that information very quickly. Not because he didn’t care about my Acne, but because having another spot is just what happens when you have Acne.

    • battles_atlas says:

      “bringing another example to the table just shouldn’t interest people at this stage.”

      If you’ve read a similar piece by John before, and feel there is nothing else to add then by all means move on. Maybe others haven’t seen John’s stuff on this before, maybe they still find it interesting, maybe there are aspects of this piece that are newsworthy to them. Either way, you should probably refrain from telling us what our response to this should be.

      If you disagree though, why not copy your post and paste it under every article/video/picture you come across today that seems reminiscent of something you’ve seen before. Have fun.

    • Premium User Badge

      bglamb says:

      Pardon me for having an opinion!

    • deejayem says:

      Sorry, friend – not meaning to put you on the spot or anything. You make an interesting point! Just happens to be one I disagree with.

      I think the acne parallel is only accurate if someone is pointing to every spot you develop and saying “Today’s headline: Another spot further confirms bglamb’s moral turpitude. Ban spots now!” In that case, it would be only right and proper for you to refute each article. To put it another way, you and your metaphorical spots are a private affair, where this is a public campaign to demonise gaming, and indirectly to promote regulation.

      That’s sort of how campaigns work – one group of people keep pushing an agenda, and those who oppose it keep providing rebuttals.

    • Dozer says:

      It’s absolutely wrong to say “This happens all the time, so it’s pointless to protest at a specific example”.

      If I say “Pretty much everything the Daily Mail publishes is wrong”, you’ll only be persuaded if I have enough influence over you that you’ll trust my opinion.

      If I say “This Daily Mail science article is wrong, because of x and y and z” (like John just did) you can be objectively persuaded that the Daily Mail allows complete bullshit to be published under its name, and you might decide to be cautious about accepting anything else they might choose to publish.

      Really you need to point at specific facts, not just the general trend.

      And when I say “you”, obviously I don’t mean you. You already know the Daily Mail is trash. I mean my 45-year-old colleague who’s becoming alienated from her son because she thinks videogames are destroying his mind, because she doesn’t have the discernment to realise stories like these are propaganda trash and will take them at face value. If I say “Generally these studies are rubbish” she’ll think I’m kneejerk defending games. If I say “This study was reported as making people aggressive when in fact it only shows that doing something changes the brain, like everything else” – she’ll be bored and probably will avoid me at lunchtime in future, but may be convinced there is another side to the story.

      So thanks John for detailing the examples of bad science and bad journalism! It is extremely important.

    • Premium User Badge

      bglamb says:

      Maybe I’ve just been round this block too many times. I’ve been reading this same article in the gaming press for years, and several times on RPS specifically.

      By no means did I mean to have a go at John, I’m just surprised this is still news to any right-thinking people.

    • Dozer says:

      Yep. It’s probably not “news” to reveal flimsy studies were reported as earth-shattering fact by the mainstream media. But still worth reporting when it happens. For the benefit of the marginal wrong-thinkers who can be persuaded to be right-thinkers too :-)

  12. MiniMatt says:

    Actually, I’ve my own study on a far more dangerous activity. It’s figures have been independently verified by the highest courts in our land and it involves over half a million subjects.

    Becoming a Member of Parliament causes criminal behaviour.

    The TUC anti cuts rally in March this year had estimates of
    500K protesters, and whilst we had 201 actual arrests on the day lets for the sake of easy maths (and account for some arrests the following days) more than double that figure to 500 – that’s 0.1%

    Compare that to the proportion of MPs from the last parliament who were not only suspected, but arrested, charged, found guilty and imprisoned for criminal behaviour – 3 out of 650 – or 0.45%

    You’re more than four times as likely to encounter criminal low lifes in the house of commons than in the middle of a grungy protest mob. I vote for kettling, water cannons, and baton charges aimed at the house of commons – statistically a far more criminal mob than those on the streets.

    • Premium User Badge

      bglamb says:

      You want to multiply the ‘daily’ arrest rate of the protesters by the amount of days in the average MPs lifetime.

      ;)

    • cliffski says:

      The real irritant there is that people arrested for rioting will probably have problems getting a job for the rest of their life. In politics, lying scumbags like mandelson, keith vaz, david laws etc…. they all get their old jobs back within a year or two.
      Jeffrey archer, the convicted liar is still a member of the house of lords, deciding how the law is applied to the rest of us…
      Surely it’s a no brainer that a criminal record should bar you from the house of commons and lords? These should be the most honorable, honest people in the country, because they are so open to corruption.

    • Jumwa says:

      This is brilliant.

      As is the whole article.

      After reading the Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan, I’ve made it a point to try and apply healthy scepticism and analysis to any sort of claim I read (as well as my own held beliefs and opinions). The scientific method seems less used by scientific professionals than you’d imagine when you start looking closely.

    • MiniMatt says:

      @bglamb – meh, you and your insistence on correct scientific process, it get’s in the way I tells you :o) I don’t have time for such matters, I’ve hyperbole to peddle here!

  13. AMonkey says:

    Trying to demonise science research by “exposing” funding isn’t a particularly stringent argument. If the scientific method and conclusions are good then it doesn’t matter who funded it. Scientists need funding for research and if it happens to come from an “evil” organisation then so be it.

    • John Walker says:

      Which is why I’ve only demonised the funding, and not the research, which I called “noteworthy, and clearly something that should grab our attention”.

      But it remains worthy of note when one research group and one funding organisation of dubious values repeatedly publish on the same agenda.

    • Premium User Badge

      bglamb says:

      While it may not be relevant to the science to highlight sources of potential bias, that’s definitely relevant to a journalistic investigation, which is what this is.

      Showing links between the people who are organising the research and other poorly done research is definitely interesting.

    • aronbarco says:

      and where exactly do you see good scientific method and good conclusions in these?

    • Skabooga says:

      Ideally, it wouldn’t matter where the funding came from because every scientific inquiry would be objective and dispassionate. But scratch the thin veneer of cold logic that the scientific community likes to present, and you’ll find the same emotions, bending of facts, and outright corruption that is found in most other disciplines. Scientists recognize this nature within them (they are, after all, as human as anyone else), and so they consider it good ethics to report who their money came from. Most journals require a clause stating funding sources and other conflicts of interest at the end of articles.

  14. Latterman says:

    Probably more interesting is this recent study published in Computers in Human Behaviour:
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563211002147

    Abstract

    This research examined relationships between children’s information technology (IT) use and their creativity. Four types of information technology were considered: computer use, Internet use, videogame playing and cell phone use. A multidimensional measure of creativity was developed based on and test of creative thinking. Participants were 491 12-year olds; 53% were female, 34% were African American and 66% were Caucasian American. Results indicated that videogame playing predicted of all measures of creativity. Regardless of gender or race, greater videogame playing was associated with greater creativity. Type of videogame (e.g., violent, interpersonal) was unrelated to videogame effects on creativity. Gender but not race differences were obtained in the amount and type of videogame playing, but not in creativity. Implications of the findings for future research to test the causal relationship between videogame playing and creativity and to identify mediator and moderator variables are discussed.

    Highlights

    ► Positive relationship between videogame playing and creativity. ► Relationship held across types of videogames (e.g., violent, interpersonal). ► Despite gender and race differences in videogame playing, there were no gender or race difference in creativity.

    • John Walker says:

      And there the funding came from the National Science Foundation.

    • Premium User Badge

      bglamb says:

      “Despite gender and race differences in videogame playing, there were no gender or race difference in creativity.”

      Doesn’t that kind of undermine the interpretation that videogames breed creativity?

    • Gundrea says:

      So what this study is saying is that everyone is equally good at Counterstrike? Heresy I say!

    • Bhazor says:

      The problems.
      That sounds self reporting based ie incredibly vulnerable to experimenter bias and telling the experimenter what they want to hear (especially young children).
      How do you establish a baseline for creativity? What is zero creativity? How can you compare my creativity to yours? In fact the method they use is *very* subjective.

      Really this sounds like those Kellogs adverts which claim that Cornflakes are clinically proven to make children “12% more alert”.

    • Tams80 says:

      @bglamb

      Errr, no. It just suggests that all people in the study were equally creative regardless of thier gender or race.

      “The next logical step for future research is to determine if the relationship between videogame playing and creativity is causal and, if so, in what direction.”

      And all I needed to do was read the conclusion.

    • Latterman says:

      oh and btw, google the study’s title and you can read the complete pdf without paying.

      @Bazhor
      they are using a standarized method to measure creativity, i’m not going to quote directly from the paper as it’s probably best to read the complete paragraph (2.2.1)

    • Bhazor says:

      I know they do. But that doesn’t mean its a good one. Its a very narrow definition of creativity that relies far too much on subjective analysis (and leans heavily in favour of children with larger vocabularie) and in terms of evidence based neuroscience MRI beats a self report survey everytime.

      @ Alec
      The NSF is a fine institution. They’ve also funded some absolute garbage before. You can’t judge a study based purely on its backing. It’s a factor but not as big as you may think. Evidence, then reputation of lab, then reputation of experimenter, then reputation of funding. Evidence before dough, yo.

    • battles_atlas says:

      My immediate response to the notion of a scientifically measurable definition of creativity is that such a notion is ridiculous, and the standardised test in that paper doesn’t change my view. Six ‘trained undergraduates’ determining meaningfulness, relevance, originality, elaboration… on a three point scale! People devote entire careers to studying such concepts, so I’d love to know how much training these students had. The test screams cultural bias, as well as the obvious problem of reductionism.

    • ucfalumknight says:

      Truthfully, creativity is hard to measure. I would like to see the instruments they used in action. But, one of the important things to note here, is the test subject variation. 491 subjects with a variety in race and gender. This sample size is much more valid than a sample size of 22 males in their 20-35 age range. Any scientist worth their weight in test tubes, will tell you that this test is cursory and needs to be studied with a march larger test group.

  15. Bhazor says:

    Speaking as a biology student (focusing on genetics but screw you) I would just like to say that nobody knows how the brain works. The sum total of a century’s careful analysis and we are certain of two facts.
    We know roughly where the brain is.
    We are fairly sure it exists.

    Everything else is up for debate.

    • Tams80 says:

      A couple of years ago the biology class I was in was given a talk on neuroscience at university. We were told that before you completed an undergraduate degree in neuroscience, you were likely to be at the forefront of research, as we know so little.

    • Gundrea says:

      Not true! We have fairly decent models of how neurons interact up to the scale of a couple of hundred!

      There are estimated to be 100 billion neurons in the human brain.

    • Wunce says:

      As someone who has toured the Queensland Brain Institute, I can say for sure that they understand the simple brains of zebra fish, but they only have about 300 neurons.

      So yeah, getting to the human brain level may take some time….

    • MiniMatt says:

      Chuckle – physics has (at least had, things may have changed in the last – gulp – 15 years) the same thing. We don’t know what gravity is.

      Sure we can describe and predict how it’ll affect things in a pretty accurate way but as to what it is – complete guesses.

    • Premium User Badge

      Hodge says:

      It’s the same with general anaesthetic – we’ve got it down to a fine art but we haven’t the slightest clue how it works.

    • hipster scumbag says:

      It doesn’t sound like you’re up on the last couple decades of psychophysiological research, friend. Activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (one of the regions mentioned in this study) is well-understood for its role in self-control and error detection.

  16. cliffski says:

    Good article, although I’d be wary of being too harsh in criticisng the source of the funding. The results are the results, regardless who paid for the study, and although we may disagree with their motives, its understandable that a study on videogame violence would be funded by a group concerned about that issue…

    However…

    I agree, that it looks like the conclusions do not match the data. Plus, a sample size of 22. seriously? Statistical noise, to be kind about it…

    And those areas of the brain may just represent an increase in passion and action, and excitement, rather than actual violence. I can see how there is a strong link betwen being assertive, and confident, and competitive, and the same areas of the brain that might (jin some cases) lead to violence.

    I’d lvoe to see a study where after ‘exposure to gaming’ a group of non gamers then re-took a test involving assertiveness, or some competitive physical sport, or were told to haggle in a marketplace or job interview. I wouldnt be surprised to see some changes there too.
    I channel aggression into working long hours coding. Not everyone automatically goes stabbing because they feel pumped up.

    • John Walker says:

      The reason for identifying funding is literal publication bias. Had the study group found that playing violent video games made one less prone to violence than those who did not, would the results have been published?

    • CMaster says:

      Well, it sounds to me like these results aren’t going to be “published”. They’ll be presented at an upcoming conference. In most cases the peer review process for conference work is the conference itself. You present your work, and people pick holes in it then and there.Conference talks and conference papers don’t normally go through the same process as work published in the standard journals.

    • hipster scumbag says:

      John -

      Absolutely! Provided that the results were statistically significant, and not the result of chance. It’s worth keeping in mind that the meta-analyses combine the results of hundreds of studies across dozens of different laboratories and experimental procedures.

      As other readers have pointed out, there are also studies that demonstrate improved creativity or problem-solving ability after gameplay, violent or otherwise. I see no reason that these results should be mutually exclusive – violent games can be good for us in some ways, and bad for us in others.

      Finally, it’s worth pointing out that a within-subjects comparison like this doesn’t necessarily require a control group – the participant’s pre-manipulation activity is his own control group. (Also, nonviolent games are very different from doing nothing at all, often decreasing aggression even further. This makes it difficult to say, exactly, what is the ideal “control group” for this kind of study)

  17. Jonny Stutters says:

    To those criticising the sample size of this study: 22 is par for the course in fMRI research partly because of the cost of collecting fMRI data and partly because of the way the statistics work. Without seeing the paper it’s impossible to know if what they’re reporting passes statistical significance tests but it’s not reasonable to dismiss the study out-of-hand based on the sample size.

    On the funding question: allegations about funding sources influencing findings are very serious and I think it’s extremely unfair on the researchers to cast aspersions when none of have been able to go over the paper. It’s very easy to find conspiracies in funding trails when actually we shouldn’t be at all surprised that the parties funding research have some interest in the result.

    • Bhazor says:

      Yes in terms of costs MRI is far far far far far more expensive than a survey. Unless you can get the US military, NHS or big oil intersted funding an MRI study of >50 is tricky to say the least.

    • Tams80 says:

      While most studies fMRI studies do have limited sample sizes partly due the costs involved, that only makes such studies questionable. I understand that funding for large studies can be difficult to come by, but sample size is a universal measure of how reliable a studies’ results are.

    • Jonny Stutters says:

      Sample size is /part/ of a measure of reliability but if findings with whatever sample pass an accepted threshold of significance (p < 0.05 FWE corrected for multiple comparisons in an fMRI study for example) then it might not be necessary to run thousands of participants. The size of study necessary to provide sufficient evidence depends on how small the effect is that you're looking for and how consistent that effect is across subjects.

  18. Binary77 says:

    Come on John, let’s just face ‘facts’ – we’re all a bunch of juiced-up psychopaths, ready to gnaw off our neighbour’s legs at so much as a disapproving glance. It’s only our ‘short attention spans’ & physical atrophy that has stopped us so far.

    • Nemon says:

      Whenever I get angry at my neighbour mowing his lawn early mornings at noon, I’m usually distracted by the awesome draw distance and low degree of pop in while approaching him with… what is this about again?

  19. Premium User Badge

    bglamb says:

    Haha, there’s a great study on the Center for Succesfull Parenting website. (http://www.sosparents.org/Marksmanship%20Study%20w%20-%20Trumans%20and%20Phils%20changes%204-01.doc)

    They got some kids, let half of them play FPS games, then gave them all guns, and let them shoot at some targets.

    Turns out that the kids who played FPS games were much better at shooting.

    “The results of this study overwhelmingly demonstrate the concerns of police departments throughout the United States and internationally. ‘Point-and-shoot’ video games teach children marksmanship skills without any disciplinary measures. They provide the ability to respond rapidly to a target and eliminate their adversary with a head or upper torso shot while wasting little to no time. There is a serious need to further research in this area.”

    Hell yeah!

  20. adrianhon says:

    Disclaimer: I am not a neuroscientist, but I used to be one.

    Everyone seems to bang on about sample size when looking at studies like these, as if anything below a few hundred or thousand can be automatically disqualified. As Jonny Stutters says, statistical significance is more important than sample size, so we’ll have to wait and see on that.

    When they say, “These findings indicate that violent video game play has a long-term effect on brain functioning,” I think that is coming from the neuroscientific point of view of ‘long term’, which is to say, “it lasts longer than a few minutes”. Is this confusing to the layman? Very possibly. Did they do it on purpose? Impossible to say.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think the study sounds that useful, mainly because I’d want to control it against (say) violent films, non-violent games, adrenaline-raising physical activities, etc. Maybe watching 24 or Die Hard 10 hours a week would have the same effects, who knows. But I’m always a bit disappointed at the reactionary attitude that gamers have to these studies – I’m sure we’re less critical of stuff that supports the view that games are ‘good’.

    I spoke to some neuroscientists at UCL a few months ago about games; they were all highly derisive of Susan Greenfield’s nonsense and they thought games weren’t that bad. Most of them played games themselves and thought that good games could be very positive. However, they also thought that games could also contribute to more negative behaviours. Nature Reviews Neuroscience did a reasonably OK piece on the current state of gaming research that’s worth seeking out a copy of if you know anyone at a uni: http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v12/n12/abs/nrn3135.html

    • Premium User Badge

      bglamb says:

      Nice link, cheers.

      I’ve often heard quoted at RPS that there has been insufficient study into the harmful effects of gaming, but there is one line in that piece which is particularly telling in this regard.

      ” The most comprehensive meta-analysis conducted to date included
      136 papers detailing 381 independent tests of association conducted on 130,296 research participants. The analyses found that violent game play led to significant increases in desensitization, physiological
      arousal, aggressive cognition and aggressive behaviour. By contrast, pro-social behaviour was decreased”

      There are also details about reputable studies showing the addictivness of games and the effects of that addiction, and also the effect of games on types of concentration.

      Don’t get me wrong, there are an awful lot of studies that show good things too, but there is no excuse for claiming there is insufficient (good) research to claim that playing videogames can be harmful.

      I’d highly recommend that report to anyone who can get hold of it.

    • Muzman says:

      Guh, they would put desensitisation in there wouldn’t they. I don’t know exactly the definition they are using there but typically that’s something that lessens the credibility of the science for me.
      Yes, it’s not just that I think there should be more research, but little layman me thinks that the entire psych discipline has “desensitisation” wrong, that it is a completely useless measure of virtually nothing and shouldn’t even be using it. So make of that what you will.

      It might have changed a bit in recent times but from studies read in the past, particularly given all the fuss about “desensitising children/psychos to violence” in decades of media panics, the actual clinical definition employed was little better than saying since audiences no longer run from Lumiere brothers movies that “media can desensitise people to trains”.
      You find the tested metric was whether or not, after exposure, people reacted the same way to the same or similar images from the same media. Suggesting at best that video game violence desensitises you to video game violence. Never mind the implicit notion that one ought to be sensitive to it.

      It’s not that the scientists were corrupt or anything. They were probably just working through their findings with their designated variables. My problem is that, while interesting, I can’t take a meta-analysis all that seriously since I think the entire discourse on this subject is flawed at best. “Desensitisation” is only the start of it too.

    • Premium User Badge

      bglamb says:

      Well ruling out the entire subject must certainly save time on reading all those pesky findings!

  21. Njordsk says:

    Well, as much as I hate media for picking on video games to make big headline, what if violent video game really made people more violent?

    We all keep defending the hobby we love, somehow blindly, but what if it were to be true? I might not make people go instantly on a killing spree, but what if days after day SOME (keyword) people, or children, which imho are more exposed or more receptive to this violence, we get more inclined to use it ourselves, or get a little more agressive?

    If we can’t prove they’re wrong, we can’t prove we’re right either.

    I do believe the regular use of violent games doesn’t help some “weak minded” person. So does the TV in fact. If might not MAKE you violent directly, but it might get you accustomed to this or less reactive in front of a violent event, accepting this as something slightly violent, or normal.

    When I see some young boy distraction at scholl I’m wondering how the fuck they can even accept this.

    I in no way agree with this stupid media trying to prove X killer played GTA, but I do think my beloved video games might make some people a little more stupider than they already are.

    I tried to express myself in english, was hard, but I hope you got my point (if one care)

    • thegooseking says:

      But why should gaming be the sole target of this scrutiny?

      Have one group play violent games for a week, and the other group read Daily Mail articles for a week. I bet that by any scientific measure, the latter group will show far greater levels of aggression. It wouldn’t be surprising: games’ effect on aggression, if there is such an effect, is incidental, while the Daily Mail’s effect on aggression is fully intended.

      And then what? The Daily Mail can’t call for a ban on violent video games on those grounds because that would also entail calling for a ban on itself.

      Even so, that presupposes that elevating someone’s levels of aggression is a bad thing. Aggression is kind of a precondition for violence, but it doesn’t inevitably lead to violence. Looking at what causes aggression might be a waste of time when one could more usefully look at what causes aggression to turn into violence.

    • jccalhoun says:

      what if violent video game really made people more violent?
      Then you would see crime rates, and youth crime rates in particular, increasing but instead, at least in the USA, they have been going down for the last twenty years.

  22. betatron says:

    The last comments defending the “facts” show how much people see the results of a science study as a new religious dogma, especially in a matter where science still doesn’t now so much, how the brain works.

    John, I read this article and remember Nicholas Carr and his “The Shallows”, how science studies are used to the cause of our self inflicted brain damage by using computers or simply the long term exposure to a screen. I had thoughts about conspiracies when reading Carr and the news about evidence linking games and violent behavior, always seeing the face of Murdoch behind this kind of stuff. That something I guess he will founding whit glee.

    Despite my wondering, I think there is a concurrent industry behind these parenting organizations. A economic force that are not benefited by the grow of the games industry. But could be only a strong religious lobby too, because games are being fight as they where a kind of a drug.

    A vicious, mind shattering, soul stealing drug…

    • aronbarco says:

      Yes, that is a sad true… people believe in the so called ‘scientists’ (wich is generally only a small fraction of science) just like people believe in the priest: the incapacity of reflective-thinking is still latent in our society.

      Above all, this is just bad science that get media attention.

      I strongly believe we need more Frege, Husserl and Wittgenstein (i.e., undertake a rigorous search for the groundings of our knowledge) and less watch-brain-patterns-to-solve-all-problems; because science is a technique, and like any other technique, we engage it with a comprehension of the world in advance. The lack of logical scrutiny of this beforehand comprehension can only lead to bad science.

      PS: sorry for the bad english.

  23. morningoil says:

    You’re a smart cookie, John Walker.

  24. Jacques says:

    The funniest bit of that Daily Mail article is the caption below the GTA 4 image, which reads:

    “The results could be concerning as they seem to show that the games cause brain plasticity – where the brain alters to accommodate demands put on it.”.

    Absolutely any and every thing leads to brain plasticity. Idiots.

  25. battles_atlas says:

    The current fad for neuroscience is just the latest in an endless line of politically-abused sciences that briefly become the answer to all our questions. Genetics was the last poster boy for this kind of reductionism – for a while that was going to explain everything about humans, and in a manner that was politically convenient for dominant neo-liberal discourses, which desired scientific cover for its ideology of individualising us all. Why worry about violence or poverty in society when you can find a gene that explains it as being the result of the individual’s DNA (and so being their fault). Of course then, like economics and psychiatry before it, it turns out pose as many new questions as it answers, and certainly doesn’t “scientifically solve” a political debate.

    Now its neuroscience that is being used for these means. I’ve nothing against fMRI, its an amazing technology, but the conclusions draw from observed [i]activity[/i] in the brain are at times absurd.

    John if you’re planning to write more on this there is a long history of critiquing such reductionism in sociology, and Science and Technology Studies (STS) particularly. Just in case you weren’t aware of this stuff here is a couple of links I’ve found

    http://www.scilogs.de/blogs/blog/menschen-bilder/2008-07-20/a-critique-of-neuroscience
    http://sth.sagepub.com/content/36/5/638.abstract
    http://sth.sagepub.com/content/27/1/53.abstract

  26. Targie says:

    Psycho-guy to the rescue.

    Obviously the paper hasn’t been published so I haven’t had time to read it, however so far everything seems fine. They’re not condemning gaming (We’ll see what conclusions they actually draw when the paper is published).
    The only issue I have currently is the implication of long-term effects on brain activiation, which none of these findings indicate, thus it is an extrapolation. Though as Adrianhon says, scientifically it is accurate, it seems to be intentionally sensationalized. Whilst this is dubious it’s a bit early to be criticizing them for their sources of funding and implying that the research has been skewed because of this.

    I’m interested to read this study because there’s a chance it might be a balanced study into the effects of videogames on the brain. Either way the scope of its implications can’t reasonably be large, at all. So it’s nothing to be worried about :)

    Of course the Daily Mail can go and conduct sexual misconduct upon itself but nothing new there.

  27. torchedEARTH says:

    “People should still join the military though and go looking for rich oil deposits. We don’t mind what that does to alter brain functions.”

  28. puggy says:

    Pretty much what AdrianHon said. At least a control with non-violent games is needed for any meaningful conclusions to be drawn.

    As (another) ex-neuro person, I’m going to stick my neck out and make an unpopular claim. I predict that future research may well show that games are bad for us, but not because of simulated violence. I suspect that the current trend in games design of giving constant rewards and achievements for players might act to change the behaviour of the brain’s reward centres, and may drive addictive behaviour. There’s something quite artificial about having explicit rewards for every tiny little thing that you got right, and I do wonder what effect that might have.

  29. Frosty840 says:

    And here was me thinking that the answer would be Brad Bushman again…

  30. Dances to Podcasts says:

    “Gaming Brain Studies & Who’s Behind Them”

    Zombies, obviously.

  31. hipster scumbag says:

    If an effect still persists after a week, even if it’s a diminished effect, that’s still a long-term effect, John. Naturally, we like to thrash around and try to poke holes by calling out the funding source, but the study itself still sounds quite sound.

    And the causal link between violent media (including videogames) and aggression is still quite robust! It dates back to Anderson’s original meta-analysis back in the 90s, when Carmageddon and Duke Nukem were still the height of graphics and immersion!

    The fact is that the science is there and very robust. Granted, the effect size is not huge (d=.20 or so) but you can’t try to argue that there’s no link whatsoever when there is such an abundance of laboratory evidence that, yes, there are both psychophysiological and behavioral effects of violent media.

  32. elpistolero says:

    I think a great deal of this controversy of Family vs. Video Games has more to do with the generational differences. I mean, people who didn’t grow up with video games – naturally aren’t apt to understand them or how they effect children. Contrast that with myself/ourselves – who were children that grew up playing games and can look at our own experience and how violence in games effected us. By in large, it’s far less worrisome cause we have been there.

    As a soon to be Dad myself (stoked btw), I admit I am very excited to share my interest in video gaming with my children. (My Dad is from the generation that viewed games as nothing more than a silly waste of time. I don’t fault him for that either, cause it really is a true generational difference.) My Dad took no interest in games – and so the only thing he really saw in them was the violence or the negative aspects. (Should I be worried you are playing a game with a “pentagram of protection”…? etc.) That is totally understandable when you think about it. I mean, how many people’s Dads sat down and played Quake with them, understood how it effected them personally, and had meaningful talks about things in games, vs. things in real life? The reason they didn’t, is because they had no interest or experience with it.

    Thankfully, my parents went out of their way to instill values in me regardless, so it wasn’t an issue in my family.

    For me, as a future parent, I will try and play anything and everything that my children play, and help share/introduce heavier games and concepts with them when they are ready. Hopefully this may even inspire discussions about what is right or wrong in real life. I think the next generation won’t be Parents vs. Games – but Family and Games.

    It’s called investing in my kids lives: better known as -> Parenting. ;)

  33. Shuck says:

    ‘ “Our culture used to protect the innocence of our children.” Um, when was that exactly? I’m struggling to put my finger on that period in history when children were more protected than they are right now. ‘
    I’m guessing that would be the period of time when children were too busy slaving away in the workhouse to have their innocence undermined by nasty media. Either that or when the authors were children. It’s a well known fact that the world was a much better, safer place during your childhood, regardless of when that was.

  34. Zetetic says:

    “These findings indicate that violent video game play has a long-term effect on brain functioning.” Because the results, to my layman’s eye, would indicate they have a short-term effect.

    Yes, that’s ignorance on your part about the use of “long-term”, and reasonable inferences that can be made, given current knowledge, from a change that’s both structurally evident in fMRI and demonstrable behaviourably after a week.

    • Premium User Badge

      Rhygadon says:

      John’s qualms about using “long-term” to refer to “a single observation a week after a week-long intervention” are entirely reasonable, and consistent with usage in the field. And the press release gives no indication that the study found any significant behavioral differences.

    • Zetetic says:

      I’m afraid I disagree. The claim in that paper is simply focused on that finding that structural changes are found a week after the intervention (apologies, I was unclear and gave the impression that this paper found both structural and behavioural changes) – that’s in contrast to behavioural changes found in the period immediate following, say, playing a particular game which would constitute “short-term” changes in behaviour as most psychologists would use the term, and certainly those dealing with the short- and long-term effects of various media.

      Edit: Below you indicate that you believe a week subsequent would not be nearly sufficient to show enduring changes. I think that’s not a clear cut claim, and combined with the fairly substantial amount of literature on other forms of media (and the demonstrations of changes over various timescales therein), I think the conclusions that paper reaches are justifiable if obviously far from water-tight.

      Edit: Same edit, I would agree whole-heartedly on your reading of the focus on fMRI without sufficient examination of actual behavioural or cognitive correlates, and I again I reiterate that I should have been much clearer in my initial comment.

    • cyberjunkie512 says:

      It is also ignorance of how complex the brain is, especially its prefrontal cortices and frontal dopaminergic networks. This study is thin and says very little. It represents the type of cherry picking that video-game-opposing parent groups love to latch on to.

  35. Premium User Badge

    Rhygadon says:

    Hi John — Nice work as always. It’s really hard to strike the sort of balance you do between pointing out the (obvious, severe, worrisome) bias of the sources and avoiding the appearance of simple ad hominem. In this case, the relevance is pretty clear, especially since they’re drumming up press coverage with a PR release before the paper has passed peer review.
    I’m familiar with the methodology they’re using, and a few other things jump out that you might find useful:
    – They don’t report anything about success rates on the behavioral tasks. If the experimental group had the same success rate as the control group, then the reduced neural activity is most parsimoniously interpreted as the game players just finding the task *easier* than the controls, which cuts directly against the authors’ intepretation. (Revised press release: “Violent video games make young men better at avoiding distraction and following instructions!”)
    – As others have pointed out, *anything* that you do for ten hours in a single week will produce changes in your brain’s response to relevant stimuli. (That’s called “learning”.) And using “long-term” the way they do in the press release is an abuse of professional vocabulary. “Long-term” doesn’t just mean “not transient”, it means “enduring over a signficant period”, which they did not show. (What counts as a “significant period” would of course depend on context, but it’s not even close in this case.)
    – The task they chose is one that specifically gets at the response to *irrelevant* violence cues in a video environment. So even if the gamers responded less to those cues, all that’s showing is that they’ve learned that video game violence isn’t significant. Very hard to draw any conclusion about consequences for real-world response.
    – RSNA is a very technology-oriented conference, with a medical-imaging focus; it’s *not* a cog neuro conference. If they had presented at SFN or CogSci, I’d be more impressed. As it is, there’s no sign that this work has survived contact with reviewers who care about the cognitive interpretation of fMRI findings.

  36. Ricc says:

    Dr Yang Wang and Dr. Larry Ley… I’m sorry, that made me giggle. I know, I’m a bad person.

  37. Sigvatr says:

    The atypical response from gamers to these studies that link violence to gaming is to instantly jump to the though process of, “Ok, who’s funding this? Who did it? Who’s in charge here?” It’s an instant logical fallacy. Instead of downloading and reading the paperwork, which pretty much no gamer is able to do because of their ADHD riddled brain, the try to get a vibe of what people think about the paperwork and who was in charge of it.

    I’m actually going to read this entire report and let the rest of you wallow in your crappulence, laughing hysterically about how you don’t even know what’s in the paper.

  38. Nate says:

    I’m no expert on this subject– but do presented results of studies undergo anything approaching the peer evaluation necessary for actual publication?

    (If there is significant peer review, you can expect one of the first things to be scrutinized to be p value and sample size, so if there has been any review, I wouldn’t expect problems related to that).

  39. TODD says:

    basically their is no surprise here that COD gives U heightened reflexes and tatcil awarness etc. Hardcore hatred of COD on this site what u been smokin bud SERIOSLY most of the COD gamers I know r some of the most hardcore gamers U cant be casual gamer and be seriosly into COD or any other competitive shooter gamer most serios COD gamers run with there clan buddies too

  40. manveruppd says:

    John, you really ought to try and get something on this subject published someplace where non-gamers can see it (a bigger website or a mainstream newspaper). Much as I love this site, and reading these articles, you gotta admit you’re mostly preaching to the converted here :) The wider world deserves a dose of your common sense and your vicious debunking of pseudoscience

    On another note, I’m curious, do you have any kind of scientific training? Just asking because scientific articles can be pretty hard going even for folks with higher degrees in the subject, and you seem to chew them up as soon as they come out.

  41. kdh says:

    Bah. Their domain is registered by the Stoughton Group. Random googling on stoughtongroup.com (the site is pretty dead) gave this link where several email adresses of theirs are on the receiving end. I’d trust any publication of theirs less than I trust the Tabloid Media…

  42. Duoae says:

    Yeah… just because an area of the brain is altered in some way by performing a task (an effect that occurs for EVERY task we perform) does not mean that our behaviour or ability to reason is altered. I mean, we don’t know… let me repeat that one more time: we don’t know how our brains work. We can see effects and make inferences but most parts of our brains can (and do) have multiple uses.

    I think back to the person who had a cyst or something in the middle of their brain and, as a result had no central part of their brain… yet they functioned pretty much normally. I mean, if we can’t say how the brain managed to re-wire itself in that instance so that it worked then i don’t think that looking at an MRI scan over a part of the brain that is associated with violence and violent thoughts (along with other things) we can say for certain what the actual effect is. We can say there is a change but we do not know what that change is doing. Especially if we’re not looking at the social behaviour of the participants over a long period of time.

    Frankly, whilst the actual research here seems solid (from what little i can see) the claims and conclusions are just out of proportion to the level of knowledge obtained. There’s only, literally, a correlation between the activity and the effect in the brain and, without looking at other factors like what effect playing other types of games has on the same or different regions of the brain, then we can’t really deduce anything other than that.

    I’m looking forward to the paper where they find that adventure games have a direct effect on the areas of the brain associated with sex drive.

  43. cyberjunkie512 says:

    I am the author of Cyber Junkie: Escape the Gaming and Internet Trap. I spent 14,000 in RTS games over 10 years. However, I see video games as the wave of thr future. If you go to predator-drone control centers, you will see young men controlling these 21st century aircraft through interfaces that are pretty much like video games. Scientific puzzles are being solved with applications like FoldIt. The problem with video-games-are-bad parent groups is that they are stuck in the Doom-connected facet of teh Columbine tragedy. That represents a microscopic portion of gamers, and of people too! Luckily! So we have to be careful when we read stories like this because the brain is an incredibly complex organ that we do not understand very well. I blog not about particular video games, but also about the power of video games to create and control the future. Please come by and read: thecyberjunkie.com

  44. jccalhoun says:

    Just FYI, the guy’s name is Mathews with one t and not Matthews.