Gamers' Brains Have Bigger 'Reward Hub'

Researchers unsure whether it's pre-existing or games change brains

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 16, 2011 5:10 AM CST

(Newser) – This is your brain on videogames: The brains of hardcore gamers are wired differently than those who rarely play video games, according to a new study. Researchers who scanned the brains of more than 150 14-year-olds found that the brain's "reward hub"—which plays a role in addiction—was bigger in frequent gamers, as it is in gambling addicts, the Los Angeles Times reports. The researchers couldn't determine whether gaming changed the brain, or whether having a certain brain structure made people likelier to enjoy gaming.

The results are "really provocative, because this is a central hub in the brain's motivational system and dopamine pathway," a researcher at Cambridge's department of experimental psychology tells Reuters. "The burning question is whether the structural difference is a change caused by the frequent game play, or whether individual differences in this system naturally dispose some people to more excessive play," he says. "For teenagers, parents, and clinicians to make sense of this finding, we need research monitoring brain structure over time."

Gamers play at the XBOX 360 booth during the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.
Gamers play at the XBOX 360 booth during the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.   (Getty Images)
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