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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Video Games and Brain Pleasure Circuits

Allan Reiss and his coworkers at Stanford University performed brain scanning on subjects playing a simple video game. The subjects were eleven male and eleven female Stanford students, selected to have similar, moderate previous experience with video games and computers generally. The video game involved a screen with a vertical dividing line and leftward-moving balls on the right-hand side, which the player could click to remove. When a ball hit the divider, it caused the divider to move slightly leftward, reducing the player's "territory" on the left-hand side of the screen. Conversely, for each second that the area near the divider was kept clear of balls, it would move rightward, gaining territory for the player. The only instruction given was, "Click on as many balls as possible." All players soon deduced the point of the game and adopted a click strategy to increase territory. An earlier study using a different form of brain scanning (positron emission tomography, or PET) revealed increased dopamine release in subjects playing a tank-driving video game. Furthermore, those subjects who scored highest in the game had the largest dopamine-release signals in the dorsal striatum and nucleus accumbens. While this study is consistent with others demonstrating dopamine pleasure circuit activation in video games, it is complicated by the fact that the subjects were paid (eight UK pounds) for each video game level they completed successfully-thus conflating monetary reward and game play.
If video games can activate the dopamine pleasure circuit, does that mean that one can become addicted to them? The answer seems to be a weak, qualified yes. There is already a burgeoning industry, complete with standardized questionnaires and dubious therapies, that claims to aid in the treatment of video game addiction and Internet addiction. However, media accounts have overstated both the extent of the problem and its severity. The best indications are that most compulsive video game players recover without intervention.


MUFCfollowers said...

I feel like my addictive personality is taken advantage of by the repetetive endorphin hits provided by FPS games lol. It's like a drug hit- now I cannot allow myself to buy BF3 for fear of the consequences!

david frankcom said...

i need to find my ps3 and get off my laptop

Anonymous said...

That's some good information, thanks for posting!

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