Do video games negatively affect our brain?

A new scientific study links video games to anxiety epidemics in young people.

British tabloid The Sun reports on a new study that links violent video games to stress. This in itself is not surprising, but what might be of importance is that stress disorders can develop.

According to the report, video games cause a ‘fight or flight’ reaction that triggers an adrenaline surge. The danger is that this chemical remains in the body since no physical action follows.

Charles Linden, of the Linden Centre in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, comments:

“Pushing anxiety to such a level without physical action can cause adrenaline overload. The rise in anxiety disorders is frightening.”

This follows a scientific study at the Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital in Taiwan that showed that obsessive gamers exhibited the same neurological effects as drug addicts. Of course, this connection was limited to game addicts and not to gamers as a whole.

There have also been direct correlations made between frequent gaming and risky drug and alcohol use, poorer personal relationships, a greater number of sexual partners and low levels of self-esteem. Nonetheless, Laura M. Padilla-Walker told Reuters Health:

“This does not mean that every person who plays video games has low self-worth, or that playing video games will lead to drug use.”

The above results stand contrary to an Oxford University study, which found that video games could reduce stress. Gamers who played Tetris immediately after a traumatic event appeared to suffer less post-traumatic stress symptoms.

“This is only a first step in showing that this might be a viable approach to preventing post traumatic stress disorder,” Emily Holmes, a psychologist who led the study, said.

Post-traumatic stress symptoms range from irritability, outbursts and trouble concentrating.

“We know there is a period of up to six hours in which it is possible to affect certain types of memories that are laid down in the human mind,” added Catherine Deeprose, who worked on the study.

“We have shown that in healthy volunteers, playing Tetris in this time window can reduce flashback-type memories without wiping out the ability to make sense of the event.”

However, all of the studies appear to agree that video games can affect our brain states in a significant way. This could be seen as dangerous, but with a more optimistic point-of-view, it could be seen as an empowering feature of the medium.

The act of playing a video game could succeed in creating differing emotions in the player, as has been demonstrated by the upcoming PlayStation Network game Flower.