Media violence linked to concentration, self-control

INDIANAPOLIS Our brains hold many of the mysteries of who we are and why we do what we do. Unlocking the mystery of how exposure to violent media affects our brains is the focus of Indiana University School of Medicine research published in the May/June issue of the Journal of Computer Assisted Tomography.

Investigators, led by Vincent P. Mathews, M.D., professor of radiology, concluded that media violence exposure may be associated with alterations in brain function whether or not prior aggressive behavior is involved.

This study builds on earlier research that showed exposure to violent media affects the brains of youths with aggressive tendencies differently than the brains of non-aggressive youths. The preliminary results, released in December 2002, showed less brain activity in the frontal lobe of youths with an aggression disorder as they watched violent video games.

In the current study, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to show activity in the brain when study participants performed a concentration test called a counting Stroop task.

Participants were shown a number that is repeated and they are to respond to the number of times they saw the number. For example, if participants are shown "222" the correct answer would be "three" because the number "2" is shown three times. Previous research has shown that Stroop tasks require participants to concentrate by using the part of the brain responsible for decision-making and self-control.

Two groups each of 14 boys and five girls were involved in the study. All the members of one group had a chronic pattern of violent behavior and had been diagnosed with disruptive behavior disorder (DBD). The second or control group had no history of behavior problems.

Members of both groups had been exposed to different amounts of violent media in their everyday lives over the past year. Fifty-eight percent of the DBD group was determined to have high exposu

Contact: Mary Hardin
Indiana University

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