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Video, TV, Gamer Violence Desensitizes Teenage Boys

Last Updated: October 29, 2010.

Adolescent boys who watch violent movies or television programs or play violent video games may become desensitized to aggression, which could promote aggressive attitudes and behaviors, according to a study published online Oct. 7 in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

FRIDAY, Oct. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Adolescent boys who watch violent movies or television programs or play violent video games may become desensitized to aggression, which could promote aggressive attitudes and behaviors, according to a study published online Oct. 7 in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

Maren Strenziok, Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues recruited 22 adolescent boys (aged 14 to 17) to watch randomly sequenced four-second clips of violent scenes from videos, with the degree of aggression/violence graded as low, mild, or moderate. The boys rated each video clip as to whether it was more or less aggressive than the previous one. During this exercise, the boys were in a magnetic resonance imaging scanner to collect data on brain function and also wore electrodes to detect skin conductance responses (SCRs).

The researchers found that the brain activation patterns in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, which is thought to be involved in emotional response, showed increasing desensitization over time, which was most marked for the videos with moderate violence. Likewise, SCR data indicated that the boys became more desensitized the longer they watched the videos and were more desensitized by the mildly and moderately violent videos than those rated low.

"We conclude that aggressive media activates an emotion-attention network that has the capability to blunt emotional responses through reduced attention with repeated viewing of aggressive media contents, which may restrict the linking of the consequences of aggression with an emotional response, and therefore potentially promotes aggressive attitudes and behavior," the authors write.

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