Regardless of how people feel about excessive video gaming, the truth is there is still much to learn about the causes and consequences of hardcore gaming. Some research suggests gaming can be healthy while others say it can be detrimental.
In this particular study conducted by Dr. Simone Kühn of Charité University of Medicine in Berlin, researchers found that teenagers who play video games frequently tend to have brains with larger pleasure centers.
The study involved looking at a group of 154 Berlin school children who were all 14-years-old and played video games. The researchers first divided the students into two groups: the 'average' gamer who played video games for about four hours a week, and 'frequent' gamers who played for about 21 hours a week.
The researchers then conducted MRI scans on all of the test subjects and found that the frequent gamer group had more grey matter (nerve cell bodies) in a region of the brain called the 'ventral striatum'. Although white matter (connections between nerves) levels were similar between the two groups, the results indicated that the frequent gamers had a larger 'ventral striatum' than the casual gamers.
"The ventral striatum is usually associated with everything that brings pleasure", Kühn explained. "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." Although this doesn't conclusively suggest frequent gamers experience more pleasure than others, the study definitely reveals an interesting correlation.
The researchers say the study doesn't determine whether the larger pleasure centers are a result of frequent gaming or a cause of frequent gaming. At this point it looks like more research will have to be done in order to come up with an answer, until then all we can do is take extra pleasure in solving puzzles, defeating bosses, and pwning noobs. For more information on the research, head on over to the Translational Psychiatry journal to read the full study.