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Violent video games affect biological systems

2008-11-13

An article published electronically yesterday in the scientific journal Acta Paediatrica, describes how heart rate and sleep in boys are affected by violent video games.

In the study boys (12-15) were asked to play two different video games at home in the evening. The boys’ heart rate was registered, among other parameters. It turned out that the heart rate variability was affected to a higher degree when the boys were playing games focusing on violence compared with games without violent features. Differences in heart rate variability were registered both while the boys were playing the games and when they were sleeping that night. The boys themselves did not feel that they had slept poorly after having played violent games.

The results show that the autonomous nerve system, and thereby central physiological systems in the body, can be affected when you play violent games without your being aware of it. It is too early to draw conclusions about what the long-term significance of this sort of influence might be. What is important about this study is that the researchers have found a way, on the one hand, to study what happens physiologically when you play video or computer games and, on the other hand, to discern the effects of various types of games.

It is hoped that it will be possible to use the method to enhance our knowledge of what mechanisms could lie behind the association that has previously been suggested between violent games and aggressive behavior. The researchers, from Uppsala University, Stockholm University and the Karolinska Institute, also hope the method can be used to study how individuals are affected by playing often and for long periods, which can take the form of so-called game addiction. This research on the effects of video games is funded by the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (FAS) and the Oscar and Maria Ekman Philanthropic Fund.

Read the article in Acta Paediatrica.

For further information please contact Frank Lindblad, Department of Neuroscience, Uppsala University and Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University. Phone: +46 (0)18-611 88 87 or +46 (0)8-5537 8914, e-mail: Frank.Lindblad@neuro.uu.se