Games in Healthcare

Study Finds Physiological Explanation to Male Gaming Addiction

A Video Game AddictA new study reveals the underlying reasons for which men and women react differently to video gaming. Men’s brains are more intensively stimulated by the rewards of video gaming than women’s are, in turn increasing their risk of addiction.

The study by a team of researchers at Stanford University’s School of Medicine focused on the addictive nature of video games and how they affected both genders.

"Forty percent of Americans play video games, and men are two to three times more likely to feel addicted," said Dr. Fumiko Hoeft the study’s co-author and senior research scientist at Stanford University School of Medicine. "It seems like an international phenomenon, but no one has looked at how the brain responds." Read More...

The study evaluated 22 undergraduate students from Stanford, half male and half female. The game required participants to protect a territory from a ball coming towards their space. Clicking on the balls before they hit the dividing wall resulted in a space gain. But if the balls hit the wall, the player lost space. Participants were also monitored using a magnetic resonance imaging.

The students were not told what the point of the game was but rapidly caught on. The game specifically dealt with territoriality, since men are known to be more territorial than women, said Hoeft.

Both genders clicked on the same number of balls, but men quickly gained more space than women. This seemingly because men were better at identifying which balls (those closest to the wall) would give them the most space if clicked.

Functional MRI results showed animation in the mesocorticolimbic center of the brain, generally linked to rewards and addiction.

"Women and men showed activity in the reward circuitry, which overlaps with addiction circuitry," Hoeft explained. "Men activated those regions more than women, and the brain regions moved together more than women."

Other games which contained no territorial quest lead to similar brain activity between men and women. The authors of the study explain that since most computer games involve territoriality and aggression, men are more likely to become addicted.

"These gender differences in the brain may help explain why males are more attracted to, and more likely to become hooked on video games than females,'' said Dr. Allan Reiss, co-author of the study.