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For Males, Video Game Rewards Are All in the Mind
Date:2/8/2008

rain responds."

For the study, 22 Stanford undergraduates (half of them men and half women) were recruited to play a video game designed by the study authors. The game purposely dealt with territoriality, as men are known to be more territorial than women, Hoeft said.

Half the space on the screen "belonged" to the player; the other half showed balls coming toward the player's 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 not told that the object of the game was to gain more space but all quickly caught on.

Although both genders clicked on the same number of balls, men quickly acquired more space than women, apparently because men were better at identifying which balls (those closest to the wall) would give them the most space if clicked.

While playing the game, the participants were hooked up to functional MRI, which shows which parts of the brain are activated at different times. All participants showed activation in the mesocorticolimbic center of the brain, which is typically associated with reward and addiction. But the male brains showed much more activation in this area.

"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."

When participants played a video game that had no territorial aspect, there was no difference in men's and women's brain activation. "It's linked to the reward of more space," Hoeft said.

According to the study authors, most computer games that males like to play involve territory and aggression, explaining why men seem more likely to get hooked.

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