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Video games decrease brain activity, says Tokyo researcher

A warning to video game arcade regulars and computer geeks: prolonged playing of video games could cause you to lose concentration, get angry easily, and have trouble associating with others, a Japanese newspaper reported.

The Mainichi Shimbun
said a survey conducted by Japanese Prof. Akio Mori of Nihon University’s College of Humanities and Sciences found that the longer people played video games, the less activity they showed in the prefrontal region of their brains, which governs emotion and creativity.

The research also showed that brain activity in people who continually played games did not recover in the periods when they weren’t transfixed before their computers.

Mori analyzed the brain waves of 240 people aged between 6 and 29, separating the beta waves that indicate liveliness and degree of tension in the prefrontal region of the brain, and alpha waves, which often appear when the brain is resting.

He divided the brain activity of participants into four categories — naming the activity normal, visual, half-video game, and video game.

The beta waves in the brains of those in the normal category, who rarely played video games, were always stronger than the alpha waves, and little change was shown when they started playing a game.

Those in the half-video game category, who spent between one and three hours each day playing games for three to four days a week, had roughly equal alpha and beta wave activity before they started playing a game. But beta waves rapidly decreased, falling below the level of the alpha waves once they started playing.

Beta wave activity in people in the video game group, who spent between two and seven hours each day playing games, was constantly near zero even when they weren’t playing, showing that they hardly used the prefrontal regions of their brains.

Many of the people in this group told researchers that they got angry easily, couldn’t concentrate, and had trouble associating with others.

"I want people to be aware of the quality of games and the time young people spend playing them during their earlier years when sentiment develops," Mori said of the results, which will be released this autumn in the US.

Mori said the research showed that only the nerve circuits of sight and motion moved when people played video games, causing a drop in the thought process.

The research also found that after prolonged time playing video games, a decrease in prefrontal game activity became chronic. Those in the visual group, who were used to visual stimulation such as television, easily developed video game-type brains.

"Many video games stir up tension and a feeling of fear, and there is concern that this could have an effect on the autonomic nerves," Mori said. "During childhood, playing outside with friends, not video games, is the best option."

Mori’s research results will be presented at a meeting of the US Society of Neurosciences, the Mainichi Shimbun said.

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