Shooting video games do change how we regard gruesome acts of violence, new scientific research can confirm.

Researchers at the University of Bonn discovered that brain activity patterns in heavy gamers radically differ from those of non-gamers.

The team of psychologists and neurologists analyzed the effect of images from "first-person shooter" games and other emotionally charged photos on the brain.

To this end, experts scanned the brain activity of gamers and non-gamers while showing harrowing shots of accident and disaster victims. Both groups responded with similarly strong emotions, but the frontal lobes which control fear or aggression was less activated in gamers.

 

“Both groups reacted strongly to the photos. But while the control group down regulates their feelings, the gamers do not need to down regulate because their initial response was not as high,” says Dr Christian Montag, lead author of the study.

Those gamers chosen for the study played first-person shooters for 15 hours per week on average, while the control group had no experience of violent games.

“First-person shooters do not respond as strongly to the real, negative image material because they are used to it from their daily computer activities,” Montag added.

He continued: “We found basic brain errors, and there are indications that the violent games are the cause of the difference in information processing in the brain.”



“Background, not games, causes acts of violence”

Christian Montag, biological psychologist, University of Bonn and lead author of the study answers Metro's questions.



Is there a special kind of people who play violent games?

No, I don’t think so. People from all kinds of society levels play this kind of games. There is no typical kind of gamer. What we can see are gender and age differences; the vast majority who play are men. Only 3 per cent who play are females. The most violent are young men in their early to mid 20s.



Do violent video games spur on acts like Anders Breivik’s shooting?

This is not supported by empirical data. If you look at 50 people who run amok, the rest of the population plays more on average. It’s not as easy as it seems, this link. It’s complex and there are many other issues involved like biology and environmental influences. Personally, I think the environment and background has a strong impact.



If you have a huge social network and many friends, you don’t have time for gaming.



How much gaming is ‘safe’?

The individuals in the study played 15-30 hours a week. It means at least 60 hours per month, which is too much. There is not a benchmark number, but around 1-2 hours a week is an okay amount. It’s like any other thing – eating, drinking etc. It should be kept to a reasonable amount.

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