Show: January 22, 2012:
Checkup: Violent Video Games Alter the Brain
This is Jeremy Shere.
So I have two ten-year-old boys, twins, and, no surprise, they’re really into video games. Some of the games, like the wildly popular war game "Call of Duty," are pretty violent.
See what I mean? And I worry sometimes that all that blasting away with video game guns and tanks and whatnot is, I dunno, harming their tender, impressionable psyches. But is it really? I spoke with Indiana University School of Medicine psychiatrist Tom Hummer:
"The easiest step is to say, okay, after one week we see changes in the brain, specifically the pre-frontal cortex, associated with controlling emotional behaviors and aggressive responses to things."
The "one week" Hummer mentioned refers to an experiment he did to see what happens to the brains of non-gamers after they play a violent video game for an few hours a day for one week.
Now, to be clear, this doesn’t mean that kids or anyone who play violent games are or become violent people. But violent game play does affect the brain’s wiring.
"When you’re playing these games, you’re essentially rewarded for committing behaviors that hopefully you won’t do outside of the video game, like shooting the enemy."
But to succeed at violent video games you have to become really good at doing just that.
"Then over time perhaps your pre-frontal cortex loses its ability to respond outside of the video game to being able to control emotional responses, aggressive behaviors, that sort of thing."
Now, parents and psychologists have been fretting about the impact of video games ever since Space Invaders -- a game that failed to incite widespread violence and mayhem among the youth of the early 1980s. So it’s easy to overestimate the harmful effects of violent games. But today’s ultra-realistic war games are of a different breed. And may give us reason to worry all over again.
I'm Jeremy Shere.