SALT LAKE CITY, UT (CBS) – According to research, brain scans from nearly 200 boys provide evidence that the brains of obsessive video game players are wired differently.
Chronic video game play is associated with hyperconnectivity between several pairs of brain networks, researchers say. Some of the changes are predicted to help game players respond to new information, but other changes are associated with distractibility and poor impulse control.
“Most of the differences we see could be considered beneficial. However the good changes could be inseparable from problems that come with them,” says senior author Jeffrey Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neuroradiology at the University of Utah School of Medicine.
The research, which was a collaboration between the University of Utah School of Medicine, and Chung-Ang University in South Korea, was published online in Addiction Biology.
The study finds in adolescent boys with internet gaming disorder certain brain networks that process vision or hearing are more likely to have enhanced coordination to the so-called salience network.
The salience network’s job is to focus attention on events, forcing a person to take action, researchers say.
“Hyperconnectivity 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 Anderson. “The changes could essentially help someone to think more efficiently.”
Researchers say what is troublesome is an increased coordination between two brain regions, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and temporoparietal junction, a change also seen in patients with neuropsychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia, Down’s syndrome, and autism, and in people with poor impulse control.
“Having these networks be too connected may increase distractibility,” says Anderson.
At this time, it is unknown whether compulsive video gaming causes rewiring of the brain, or whether people who are wired differently are enticed by video games.