Short-Term Violent Video Game Play by Adolescents Alters Prefrontal Activity During Cognitive Inhibition

Prior research has indicated an association between exposure to violent media and aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behavior, potentially as a result of effects on inhibitory mechanisms. However, the role of violence in video games in modulating subsequent neural activity related to cognitive inhibition has received little attention. To examine short-term effects of playing a violent video game, 45 adolescents were randomly assigned to play either a violent or a nonviolent video game for 30 minutes immediately prior to functional magnetic resonance imaging ( fMRI). During the fMRI procedure, participants performed a go/no-go task that required them to press a button for each target stimulus and withhold the response for non-target stimuli. Participants who played the violent game demonstrated a lower BOLD response in right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) when responses were appropriately inhibited. The DLPFC is involved with executive functioning, including suppression of unwanted thoughts and behaviors. In addition, responses in the DLPFC demonstrated stronger inverse connectivity with precuneus in the nonviolent game players. These results provide evidence that playing a violent video game can modulate prefrontal activity during cognitive inhibition.

Publication Date

January 2010

Publication Name

Media Psychology


Tom A. Hummer, Yang Wang, William G. Kronenberger, Kristine M. Mosier, Andrew J. Kalnin, David W. Dunn, Vincent P. Mathews