Video Games and the Brain

Video Games’ effect on the brain is currently a controversial topic. In many ways, the general population believes that video games are negative. High screen-viewing times with video games are considered to cause health problems, social issues and so on. Presently, the focus is on the neurological effects of these video games and how it all link to people’s behaviours. Studies show that there are both harmful and beneficial results. [1] Games being evaluated are currently these action-oriented and violent video games like Call of Duty, Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto. In both the past and present, these games are presented as detrimental to both children and adults. Whether or not video games cause violent behaviour has been a big issue lately, with most school shootings being linked back to unhealthy gaming habits. In general, video games are shown to increase aggression. These effects are mostly shown in individuals who game obsessively and play violent games such as first-person shooters. [2] By finding out the gravity of impact video games of different genres have on people, it can be determined just how big of a role that gaming habits play in predicting future aggressive behaviour. With excessive gaming, some individuals are also more prone to become addicted. Ability to identify neural processes involved with video game cravings increase understanding of both diagnosis and treatment. Games like World of Warcraft (WoW) seem to have an addictive effect, sharing similar neurological chemistry as substance addictions.

However, there are some positive outcomes playing video games as well. Studies demonstrated that video games cause improvement in cognitive abilities - even if they are of the action genre. The constant engagement with these video games allows more practise allocating their attention that non-video gamers lack. Spatial memory and visual acuity are also shown to improve for video gamers compared to non-gamers. In the medical field, scientists are turning to video games as a potential way to treat patients, which have been shown to help with rehabilitation in patients with brain injuries. Significant enhancements in speed of information processing, attention and memory function have been detected in brain damaged patients. In addition, rehabilitation plan that incorporates training through Xbox Kinect and other virtual reality games have led to improvements in patients with conditions such as ataxia and Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy. Training through video games is an inexpensive and efficient approach and should be a part of rehabilitation plan for patients with brain injuries.

1. Bavelier, D., Green, C. S., Han D. H., Renshaw, P. F, Merzenich, M. M., & Gentile, D. A. (2011). Brains on video games. Perspectives in Nature Review in Neuroscience, 12, 763-768.
2. Lemmens, J. S., Valkenburg, P. M. & Peter, J. (2010). The Effects of Pathological Gaming on Aggressive Behavior. Youth Adolescence, 40, 38-47.

Cognitive Benefits of Video Games

main article: Cognitive Benefits of Video Games
author: Justin Feng

Short TED talk as an introduction to the field presented by Daphne Bavelier

Cognitive abilities such as attention, memory and certain executive functions improve with moderate gaming. In the current generation, gaming is continuing to grow as an industry and more individuals will be playing. Previously, studies focused on the harmful effects such as aggression and addiction. However, new researches are emerging, studying the benefits instead. In general, video game players (VGPs) tend to be outperforming non-video game players (NVGPs) in certain areas such as attention. When engaged in high action oriented games, VGPs can allocate their attention, as there are many different cues and signals going on during the game. [1] Attention also relates with visual changes. VGPs are becoming more efficient with their visual abilities. Their better eye movements correspond with better performance in visually demanding tasks. EEG scans showed that both parietal and occipital cortex, areas involved with sensory and visual processing, have increased synaptic current. [2] Lastly, there are improvements in memory, specifically visual and spatial memory. Due to more experiences with video games, it allows faster processing and better visual short-term memory. [3] The plasticity of the brain is a common aspect for all the better cognitive functions of VGPs. These benefits also apply to casual gamers, to those who play on the Internet, or perhaps casually on their mobile devices. Additionally, studies now find these changes apply to older adults. Presently, health professions use video games in rehabilitation and other medical studies like concussion.

1. Bavelier, D., Green, C. S., Han D. H., Renshaw, P. F, Merzenich, M. M., & Gentile, D. A. (2011). Brains on video games. Perspectives in Nature Review in Neuroscience, 12, 763-768.
2. Havranek, M., Langer, N., Cheetham, M., & Jancke, L. (2012). Perspective and agency during video gaming influences spatial presence experience and brain activation patterns. Behavioural and Brain Functions, 8, 34.
3. Wilms, I. L., Petersen, A., & Vangkilde, S. (2012). Intensive video gaming improves encoding speed to visual short-term memory in young male adults. Acta Psychologica, 142, 108-118.

Video Game Addiction

main article: Video Game Addiction
author: Angelica C

Should we classify video game addiction as a clinical disorder?

Excess video game play may lead to a video game addiction, in which some online video games create a virtual world that can have major impact on our social and mental wellbeing. [1] Online video game addiction has not been classified as a clinical disorder yet. However with current research, behavioral addictions (which only includes gambling addiction at the moment) are now proposed as to be clinical disorders in DSM-5 (5th version of American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) due to their similarity to substance addictions. [2] Unfortunately, due to lack of research, internet gaming addiction is only listed in the manual's appendix.[3] Nonetheless, this idea has opened the doors to a whole new window of research. There is a strong drive towards investigating the neural mechanisms behind this type of addiction. Identifying the neural processes can be applied to what treatments can be used and individuals who might be more prone to having a video game addiction.

1. Toronto, E. (2009). Time out of mind: Dissociation in the virtual world. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 26(2), 117-133.
2. Grant, J.E., Potenza, M.N.,Weinstein, A., & Gorelick, D.A. (2010). Introduction to behavioral addictions. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 36(5), 233-41.
3. John Gever. (May 10, 2012). DSM-5: What's In, What's Out. In Medpage Today. Retrieved April 1, 2013, from

Video Games and Aggression

main article: Video Games and Aggression
author: Taylor Brin

The NRA comments on the Sandy Hook shooting, blaming video games and violent media on Fox News.

Video games have been gaining immense popularity over the years as more people are playing them for longer periods of time. The most popular games are usually violent, first-person shooters. As a result, the amount of attention being paid to how they are affecting the population is increasing. More research into this area is also being sparked by recent school shootings. Violent video games were often cited as the cause for the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, as the perpetrators were avid gamers. Whether or not violent games can have this kind of powerful sway on people has since been a hot topic of debate. In general, studies show that video games moderately increase aggression through several possible mechanisms. After playing violent video games, most players show altered brain activity that is correlated to aggression and a decrease in empathy[1]. These effects are mostly shown in individuals who game obsessively and play violent games such as first-person shooters[1]. Therefore, it is not that video games are bad in of themselves, but the content of the game and the intent of the player that dictate post-gaming reactions.

1. Chou, Y., Yang, B., Hsu, J., Wang, S., Lin, C., Huang, K., Chang, A.C., & Lee, S. (2012). Effects of video game playing on cerebral blood flow in young adults: A SPECT study. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 212, 65-72.
2. Mathiak, K., & Weber, R. (2006). Toward Brain Correlates of Natural Behavior: fMRI during Violent Video Games. Human Brain Mapping, 27, 948-956.
3. Lemmens, J. S., Valkenburg, P. M., & Peter, J. (2010). The Effects of Pathological Gaming on Aggressive Behavior. Youth Adolescence, 40, 38-47.
4. Montag, C., Weber, B., Trautner, P., Newport, B., Markett, S., Walter, N.T., Felten, A., & Reuter, M. (2012). Does excessive play of violent first-person-shooter-video-games dampen brain activity in response to emotional stimuli? Biological Psychology, 89, 107-111.
5. Greitemeyer, T., & Osswald, S. (2009). Prosocial video games reduce aggressive cognitions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 896-900.
6. Jeong, E.J., Biocca, F.A., & Bohil, C.J. (2012). Sensory realism and mediated aggression in video games. Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 1840-1848.
7. Schulzke, M. (2010). Defending the morality of violent video games. Ethics Information Technology, 12, 127-138.

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