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A collaborative piece of research between the University of Utah School of Medicine and Chung-Ang University in South Korea suggests that the brains of compulsive video game players are "wired differently."
The study, based on brain scans from nearly 200 adolescent boys, found that that those who play games more often show signs of enhanced coordination between the brain networks that process vision or hearing and the so-called salience network, which governs our attention span.
"Hyper-connectivity between these brain networks could lead to a more robust ability to direct attention toward targets, and to recognize novel information in the environment," says senior author Jeffrey Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neuroradiology at the University of Utah School of Medicine. "The changes could essentially help someone to think more efficiently."
However, follow-up studies will be needed to directly determine whether the boys with these brain differences do better on performance tests.
Although Anderson believes most of those differences, such as heightened reactions and the ability to process information quickly, could be considered beneficial, there do appear to be some unwanted side-effects.
For example, the study also found that, in the brains of those who play more games, there was an increase in coordination between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the temporoparietal junction, a connection that may "increase distractibility."
That same change is often seen in patients with neuropsychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia, Down's syndrome, and autism, as well as in those with poor impulse control.
Although it's a concerning finding, Anderson admits that it's currently unclear as to whether persistent video gaming causes the brain to be rewired in such a way, or whether people who are already wired differently are simply drawn to video games.