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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Game addicts display similar brain structure to that of drug addicts


Heavy computer gamers have structure of brains different from that of the others. A recent study has showed that a game player’s brain scan displayed larger ventral striatum, a main reward system in forebrain.

The outcome has been revealed in the study on the relations between the game hours and brain structure by an international group of researchers for a total of 154 students aged 14 years, including 72 male students, according to the online Transitional Psychiatry journal reported on Nov. 15.

They spent average of nine hours a week, resulting in that the ones who spent longer time on the games had larger striatum, a symptom that could also be seen in ‘drug addicts.’

"The striatum is usually activated when people anticipate positive environmental effects or experience pleasure such as winning money, good food and sex," said Dr. Simone Kuhn from Ghent University in Germany in his interview with the BBC. He also said that the region is deeply involved in drug addiction.

This finding was provocative to many scientists and brings even more question. “This study does not resolve whether the structural difference is a change caused by the frequent game play, or whether the larger striatum gives a natural tendency to some people to more excessive play,” said Dr. Luke Clark from the department of experimental psychology at the University of Cambridge.

"It certainly seems very plausible that playing video games for half a day a week may well actually structurally change the brain.” said Dr. Luke. However, he could not avoid thinking about the other possibilities: "For teenagers, parents, and clinicians to make sense of this finding, we need research monitoring brain structure over time."

Regardless of the different opinions on the result, experts said that parents should pay attention to teenagers for what the study implies about their kids spending too much playing games.

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