Violence-related content in video game may lead to functional connectivity changes in brain networks as revealed by fMRI-ICA in young men (2016)

Neuroscience. 2016 Feb 8. pii: S0306-4522(16)00099-3. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2016.01.056.

Zvyagintsev M1, Klasen M2, Weber R3, Sarkheil P2, Esposito F4, Mathiak K5, Schwenzer M2, Mathiak K2.


In violent video games, players engage in virtual aggressive behaviors. Exposure to virtual aggressive behavior induces short-term changes in players’ behavior. In a previous study, a violence-related version of the racing game “Carmageddon TDR2000” increased aggressive affects, cognitions, and behaviors compared to its non-violence-related version.

This study investigates the differences in neural network activity during the playing of both versions of the video game. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) recorded ongoing brain activity of 18 young men playing the violence-related and the non-violence-related version of the video game Carmageddon. Image time series were decomposed into functional connectivity (FC) patterns using independent component analysis (ICA) and template-matching yielded a mapping to established functional brain networks.

The FC patterns revealed a decrease in connectivity within 6 brain networks during the violence-related compared to the non-violence-related condition: three sensory-motor networks, the reward network, the default mode network (DMN), and the right-lateralized frontoparietal network. Playing violent racing games may change functional brain connectivity, in particular and even after controlling for event frequency, in the reward network and the DMN. These changes may underlie the short-term increase of aggressive affects, cognitions, and behaviors as observed after playing violent video games.