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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Videogame link to anti-social behaviour, aggression, psychiatric disorders

People who regularly play action video games could be at increased risk of developing neurological and psychiatric disorders, a study suggests.

The research, published in a Royal Society journal on Wednesday, found that people who played games such as Call of DutyGrand Theft Auto V and Tomb Raider were more likely to employ navigational strategies associated with decreased grey matter in the hippocampus part of the brain.
Decreased volume in the hippocampus has been associated with disorders such as schizophreniapost-traumatic stress disorderdepression and Alzheimer’s disease.
The lead study author, Prof Greg West, from the University of Montreal’s department of psychology, said the paper indicated that benefits of video games, such as improved attention and perception, highlighted in previous studies, could come at a price.
“Since 2003, research has been reporting cognitive benefits of video game playing so that we could use them to manage cognitive decline in older people or special populations [eg people with early stage dementia],” said West.
The message is enjoy video games, enjoy them in moderation but don’t expect them to improve some sort of cognitive ability.
The researchers asked 59 healthy young adults, with an average of 24, to complete a virtual reality task consisting of an eight-arm radial maze containing landmarks.
Of the participants, 26 were identified as action video game players, meaning they reported a minimum of six hours a week (the average was 18 hours) spent playing such games during the previous six months. The remainder had played them very little or not at all in the same period.
By questioning the participants, the researchers examined whether they tackled the virtual reality task using a spatial or response learning strategy. A spatial strategy involves building relationships between landmarks in an environment and relies on the hippocampus. By contrast, a response strategy entails learning a series of movements (eg left and right turns) from given positions that act as stimuli, so that they become part of the procedural memory system, not involving conscious thought.
The results showed that 80.76% of action video game players spontaneously used a response strategy, compared with 42.42% of non players.
Response strategies rely on the striatum part of the brain and studies have shown an inverse relationship between grey matter in the striatum and hippocampus.
West said: “Older adults use response strategy more and more so, in this sense, video gamers look like older adults.”
He said more research was needed to investigate the direct impact of different genres of video games on the hippocampus and striatum and how much time one could spend playing video games before potentially negative effects kicked in.

Whether violent video games provoke anti-social behaviour depends heavily on context, researchers at the University of Luxembourg have found, with positive and negative effects observed among participants.
“Merely being exposed to violent scenes in video games is not enough to provoke anti-social reactions,” psychology researchers concluded.
An important piece in the puzzle is, for example, the role players inhabit during the game. Thus, pro-social characters in violent games can have a positive effect, while playing murderous characters can have a negative influence on behaviour.
Researchers conducted a study with around 230 participants, letting them play different characters in a number of violent or gory video games.
At the end of a 15-minute period, students were submitted to a number of behavioural tests. They were for example told to help themselves to a sweet or pen, but were told that taking more than one would lead to other participants losing out.
People who had just played an anti-social character were twice as likely to take more than one item, than the pro-social test group.
Similarly participants who played pro-social roles were seven times more likely to hand in an envelope that someone had “dropped” on the floor than the other group of gamers, who were more likely to leave the envelope lying on the floor.
“These effects will not necessarily be long lasting in the vast majority of people,” researchers said, adding, however, that people with a tendency towards anti-social behaviour could see this conduct reinforced.
The findings were published by Palgrave Maxmillan in a book entitled Empathy and Violent Video Games: Aggression and Prosocial Behavior.

Context matters for violent games 14 January, 2015

The study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, surveyed the gaming habits of 3,034 children ages 8 to 17 in Singapore over a three-year period. The results suggest that violent video game play influences aggressive behavior by producing lasting changes in how a child views violence.

Video game violence expert Douglas A. Gentile, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist at Iowa State University, Ames, says his study also combats the popular belief that video game violence only affects people who are already highly aggressive. The new study also throws a wrench in the argument that girls are more immune to the aggressiveness displayed in video games.

“Because of the large number of youths and adults who play violent video games, improving our understanding of the effects is a significant research goal that has important implications for theory, public health, and intervention strategies designed to reduce negative effects or to enhance potential positive effects,” the study concluded.

The new study replicated previous findings on the subject, including the discovery that violent video game play increases a child’s long-term aggressive behavior by “producing general changes in aggressive cognitions... regardless of sex, age, initial aggressiveness, and parental involvement.

The information—including the number of violent acts in a video game—were reported by the children being studied, which could have introduced bias into the results. Further research, the study authors said, should include information gathered from parents, teachers, and researchers’ own observations.

The issue of violence in video games is most often brought up in the press after mass shootings, including the Sandy Hook massacre that took the lives of 28 people. While the two are often fodder for the media, it’s a conversation normally directed by conjecture and speculation.
Only a handful of defense attorneys have brought up violent video games when trying to offer a justification for such crimes, and no defendant has ever been acquitted in a U.S. courtroom because of his or her gaming preferences.
The American Psychological Association performed a review of the subject in 2010 and found that hostility related to video games affected a certain subset of children who possess the “perfect storm” of traits: neuroticism, low levels of agreeableness (or empathy), and low levels of conscientiousness.
“Violent video games are like peanut butter,” Christopher J. Ferguson, of Texas A&M International University said of that research. “They are harmless for the vast majority of kids but are harmful to a small minority with pre-existing personality or mental health problems.”

Study: Violent Video Games May Make Kids More Aggressive March 24, 2014

A coroner is investigating the role of the violent video game Call of Duty in the deaths of up to four teenage boys who played it before killing themselves.

John Pollard said that in ‘three or four inquests . . . the Call of Duty game seems to be figuring in recent activity before death’.
He added: ‘It concerns me greatly. It has figured in a number of deaths which I’m investigating.’
He was speaking at the inquest of gifted A-level student William Menzies, 16, who suffocated himself in his bedroom, where he frequently played the war-simulation game on an Xbox.
Like other violent games such as Grand Theft Auto, many releases in the Call of Duty series have an 18 certificate but are often played by school-age boys.
In February 2012, Callum Green, 14, was found hanged after playing Call of Duty with his stepfather. 
At the time, Mr Pollard urged parents to stop their children playing adult video games, saying the age restriction was for a ‘valid reason’.
The South Manchester coroner said Call of Duty had also been linked to the deaths of two other unnamed teenagers.
William lived with his parents John, 56, and Anne, 52, and older brother Alexander, 19, in the upmarket village of Hale, Greater Manchester, and attended Altrincham Grammar School.
Mr Menzies said: ‘Nothing about him caused concern. 
'He was very taken with his studies and he enjoyed playing his Xbox. 
'The game he always played was Call of Duty.
‘He was rather self-contained, he didn’t like going out a great deal. 
'He didn’t drink or smoke – he was the opposite to that.
‘He had exams coming up, but that wouldn’t cause him any worry as he was a straight-A student. 
'He never threatened self-harm to my knowledge.’
Mr Menzies told the inquest that on February 17, during the half-term holidays, he was working at home and gave his son the science fiction novel Never Let Me Go to read.
‘On one occasion I heard William laughing in his bedroom,’ he said.
His wife sounded the alert later that afternoon when she went to check on their son, and the family tried to resuscitate him.
An ambulance came to the family’s home within ten minutes and rushed him to hospital, but he was later pronounced dead.
Mr Menzies said: ‘I would say William is a person who made his own mind up and carried things out, so . . . I would say that there is clear suggestion he intended it.
‘He was happy that day and the last thing I heard him do was laugh, so I could only guess as to why he might have done it, but there is no doubt he intended to take his life.’
William’s brother Alexander said: ‘I remember him saying he had admiration for a philosopher who had decided to kill himself. 
'He never said he was going to harm himself. During that day, at lunchtime, the two of us were making lunch together. He seemed cheery and in a good mood.’
Recording a verdict of suicide, Mr Pollard said: ‘I suspect, but I don’t know because I don’t have enough evidence, that William may have been experimenting with something or deliberately intending.
‘There is no doubt it was asphyxia. There was no note or indication he was feeling down or distressed.’
Mr Pollard recorded an open verdict at the inquest into the death of Callum, who was found hanged in his bedroom after being grounded by his mother following a row.
Coroners investigate violent or unnatural deaths, or those with an  unknown cause. 
In some cases, a death may be referred to police for investigation on behalf of a coroner, or to an independent body such as the Health and Safety Executive.
Call of Duty allows players to inhabit the role of a blood-thirsty soldier in a variety of grusome scenarios. 
Gamers are armed with machine guns, rifles, pistols and grenades and play a fast-paced game of kill or be killed.
Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik claimed he had ‘trained himself’ to kill his 77 victims by playing Call of Duty.
French terrorist Mohammed Merah also played Call Of Duty before killing three soldiers and four civilians – including a rabbi and three children – in Toulouse in March 2012.
The violence in Call of Duty has been criticised by the London Jewish Forum, the British Muslim Forum and Church of England ministers. Call of Duty 3 shows soldiers running through London while bombs explode and buildings crash to the ground.
In one controversial scene a soldier causes a Tube train to derail and explode. Other graphic scenes show aerial attacks on New York and grenades exploding in Paris and Berlin.
When news of the Certificate 18 game's content was revealed it was panned by Mediawatch UK as being in 'incredibly poor taste'.
Call of Duty 2 also caused outrage when it was revealed players could kill 'civilians'. There are currently at least 40million active players across all of the Call of Duty titles.

Violent video game is now linked to 4 teenage deaths: Coroner investigates Call of Duty after suicide of boy who played it in bedroom  27 May 2014

Parents who allow young children to play inappropriate video games such as Call Of Duty and Grand Theft Auto could be reported for neglect.
Primary school head teachers warn the games could increase "early sexualised behaviours" and threaten to involve police and social services.
The warning has been issued by The Nantwich Education Partnership, made up of 15 primary schools and one secondary academy in Cheshire.
The body issued a letter after children reported playing or watching the adult-themed games.
The stated: "Several children have reported playing or watching adults play games which are inappropriate for their age and they have described the levels of violence and sexual content they have witnessed: Call Of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Dogs Of War and other similar games are all inappropriate for children and they should not have access to them.
"If your child is allowed to have inappropriate access to any game or associated product that is designated 18-plus we are advised to contact the police and children's social care as it is neglectful."
The education partnership said that the warning was in line with local authority policy.
Parents were also warned about allowing their youngsters to have accounts on social media sites such as Facebook and WhatsApp because it could make them vulnerable to sexual grooming.
The letter, sent last month, went on: "Access to these games or to some social media sites such as those above increases early sexualised behaviours (sometimes harmful) in children and leaves them vulnerable to grooming for sexual exploitation or extreme violence."

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