24 February 2008

NYT article: Vital Signs (Men and Video Games)

Vital Signs
Patterns: A Video Game, an M.R.I. and What Men's Brains Do
Published: February 19, 2008

Why does it often seem that men enjoy playing video games more than
women? Perhaps because they do.

A new study finds that when men play the games, a part of the brain
involved in feelings of reward and addiction becomes much more
activated than it does in women.

This may explain why men are more likely to report feeling addicted to
video games than women are, the researchers say in an online article
in The Journal of Psychiatric Research. The lead author is Fumiko
Hoeft of the Stanford University School of Medicine.

For the study, the researchers took a group of 22 young volunteers —
half men, half women — and had them play a game as an M.R.I. machine
looked at what was happening in their brains. The study found that in
the men, there was much more activity in the mesocorticolimbic system.

Given the abundance in video games of violence and other themes near
and dear to many men, there may be a natural explanation for why their
brains light up more. But the senior author of the study, Dr. Allan L.
Reiss, said the researchers made a point of steering the game they
used in a more neutral direction.

The volunteers played a simple game in which they were told only to
click the images of balls they saw, with no mention of a goal.

The players soon figured out that if they kept the balls from
advancing too close to a wall, they gained ground. Both the men and
the women did well — but the men did a lot better and appeared more
motivated to acquire terrain.

Link to article:

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