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Brains differ in computer gamers

16th November 2011

Researchers have found evidence that suggests computer games have an impact on the brain.

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Teenagers, who regularly play such games, have a larger “reward hub” – which is involved in addiction - in their brains than occasional players.

However, the research published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, said it remained unclear whether the games changed the brain or if brain differences made people more likely to play, with more studies needed to clarify the position.

The international team of researchers ranked 154 14-year-olds by the number of hours played in a week, with the middle teenagers playing about nine hours a week and classed as frequent players.

Their brains scans showed a larger ventral striatum, which is the hub of the brain’s reward system.

The region of the brain has also been implicated in drug addiction.

Dr Luke Clark, from the department of experimental psychology at the University of Cambridge, said the findings were provocative as they looked at what is the central hub in the brain’s motivational system.

He said: “But the burning question that this study does not resolve is whether the structural difference is a change caused by the frequent game play, or whether individual differences in this system naturally dispose some people to more excessive play.”

Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, of the division of neurosciences at Imperial College London, said the findings were highly relevant to clinical practice as they further closed the gap “between this activity and other addictions”, giving a better understanding of possible long-term treatment interventions.

 

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