Does excessive play of violent first-person-shooter-video-games dampen brain activity in response to emotional stimuli?
The present case-control study investigated the processing of emotional pictures in excessive first-person-shooter-video-players and control persons. All participants of the fMRI experiment were confronted with pictures from four categories including pleasant, unpleasant, neutral content and pictures from the first-person-shooter-video-game 'Counterstrike'. Compared to controls, gamers showed a significantly lower activation of the left lateral medial frontal lobe while processing negative emotions. Another interesting finding of the study represents the higher activation of frontal and temporal brain areas in gamers when processing screen-shots from the first-person-shooter-video-game 'Counterstrike'. Higher brain activity in the lateral prefrontal cortex could represent a protection mechanism against experiencing negative emotions by down-regulating limbic brain activity. Due to a frequent confrontation with violent scenes, the first-person-shooter-video-gamers might have habituated to the effects of unpleasant stimuli resulting in lower brain activation. Individual differences in brain activations of the contrast Counterstrike > neutral pictures potentially resemble the activation of action-scripts related to the video-game. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.