In Norway, a few games with shooting in first person disappeared from the market some time after the murders.
Are intensive fights shown on flat screen resulted in aggressive behavior in real life? Researchers from the University of Bonn have discovered patterns of brain activity among heavy gamers that are different from those in people who do not play.
The connections of games classified as “First Person Shooting” with violence are constantly reviewed. Participants are entered into the role of shooter who struggles with their opponents in war situations using various weapons. It is considered that the Norwegian killer was intensively involved in such worlds before killing dozens of people in county government in Oslo and on the island Utoja. After shooter activity in Erfurt, Emsdeten and Vinheden, debate over whether violent games reduce the threshold of inhibition and result in violent behavior was again activated.
Psychologists and neurologists from the University of Bonn began to study the effect of images from the shooting games and other emotional filled images on brain activity of gamers.
"Compared with people who refrain from such games, they show differences in the way of control of emotions," said lead author Dr. Christian Montag of the Institute of Psychology at the University of Bonn.
21 subjects aged 20 to 30 years were playing shooting games in the first person on average nearly 15 hours a week. During the study, there was shown a standardized catalog of photos that will surely cause emotion in the human brain, using video glasses. Simultaneously, the researchers recorded responses in their brains using a brain scanner at the Centre for Life and Brain, University of Bonn. Images included photographs used in violent games, and pictures of accidents and victims of disasters.
"This mix of images helped us to convey the subject in the world of fictional shooter in first person with whom you are familiar and challenging emotions through realistic images," explains Dr. Montag.
This catalog of images was shown also to the control group of 19 persons who had no experience with violent video games.
When subjects are considered real, negative images appeared and there is much increased activity in their amygdala. This area of the brain is strongly associated with the processing of negative emotions.
"Surprisingly, the amygdala of subjects and the control group were similarly stimulated," says Montag. "It shows that both groups responded to images with similar strong emotions." But left medial-frontal lobes were clearly less activated among users of violent games than in control subjects.
This is a brain structure that people use to control their fear or aggression.
"First Person Shooters do not react so strongly to the real, negative images because they are accustomed to them from their daily computer activities," concluded Montag. "You could say that they are less sensitive compared with the control group." On the other hand, to processing images from computer games, first-person shooters showed greater activity in brain areas associated with memory and working memory than the control group members. "It shows that gamers put themselves in a video game while having to show images from computer games and sought potential strategy to find a solution to the shown status of the game," said Dr. Montag.
One issue that emerged during the interpretation of the results is whether consumers have shown altered brain activity for games or whether they were more tolerant of violence from the outset and as a result, they prefer games with first-person shooters. Researchers from the University of Bonn were able to propose an answer to this question based on the fact that they took into account various characteristics of the person as fear, aggression, lack of sensitivity and emotional stability. "There was no difference between subjects and control group in that area," said Dr. Montag. "This suggests that violent games are the reason for the difference in processing information in the brain."
From the results, Dr. Montag concluded that emotional insensitivity not only occurs while playing video games. "Finally we were able to discover and decreased control of emotions in the first-person shooters to real images," he said.
Because he believes that these reactions are not limited to virtual worlds.
Although there are many studies about video games and aggressive behavior, there is surprisingly little study of their effect on the brain. "Our results give indications that excessive use of games in first person shooters coming along with their problems," says Dr. Montag. "But we need further studies to shed light on the relationship between violent games, brain activity and real behavior."