China has more internet and gaming addicts than any other country. They also conduct more research on the issue than anyone. And according to a study, Chinese researchers think that excessive gaming can permanently alter brain function.
The study, originally published in the Public Library of Science’s One journal, used two groups of college-age subjects: 18 ‘addicted’ individuals and 18 ‘healthy’ individuals as a control group. Everyone in the study was put through an MRI machine which scanned two parts of their brains. The result? Here’s what Scientific America had to say:
The researchers discovered several small regions in online addicts’ brains shrunk, in some cases as much as a 10 to 20 percent. The affected regions included the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, rostral anterior cingulate cortex, supplementary motor area and parts of the cerebellum.
What’s more, the longer the addiction’s duration, the more pronounced the tissue reduction. The study’s authors suggest this shrinkage could lead to negative effects, such as reduced inhibition of inappropriate behaviour and diminished goal orientation.
While some researchers believe it’s just the brain naturally pruning neural networks to make the most stimulated areas function more efficiently, other scientists believe that such shrinkage of white and grey brain matter can have an effect on decision making. Basically, gaming isn’t going to ravage your idea machine upstairs, but, you know, maybe it’s good diversify your interests. [PLoS via Scientific America]
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