It’s a proven fact, at least according to a new study, that teenagers who frequently play video games end up with brains with larger pleasure centers.
Dr. Simone Kuhn of Charite University Medicine in Berlin, along with a large team of other European researchers, have reported these results in the journal Translational Psychiatry.
The study looked at 154 Berlin school children, all aged 14, who played video games. They were split into groups of two: those who played 4 hours or less a week and those who played around 21 hours a week.
Kuhn stated: “An important feature of our study is that none of the children were addicted to video games.” The researchers knew this by questionnaires the children had filled out previously.
The children underwent MRI scans, which is how the researchers found a part of the brain called the “ventral striatum” had more grey matter in those who frequently played video games. Grey matter is nerve cell bodies. The amount of white matter, the connections between the nerves, was similar across the two groups.
“The ventral striatum is usually associated with everything that brings pleasure”, said Kuhn. “For instance food and monetary reward. It’s also been associated with some addictions. If you show a smoker a cigarette for example, the ventral striatum is activated”.
A second part of the study involved giving the children a task and then looking at their reactions after failing to get a monetary reward. The children played a game that promised a reward if they could press the correct key very quickly when prompted. They received feedback afterwards on whether they had succeeded or failed.
Brain scans of the frequent gamers during this task showed a fascinating response: their pleasure centers were active even when they failed to get the reward. According to Kuhn, “They perceive a reward as they lose.” She believes that this is the reason that gamers continue to play, despite temporary setbacks.
Source: ABC Science