STANFORD, Calif. - Allan Reiss, MD, and his colleagues have a pretty good idea why your husband or boyfriend can't put down the Halo 3. In a first-of-its-kind imaging study, the Stanford University School of Medicine researchers have shown that the part of the brain that generates rewarding feelings is more activated in men than women during video-game play.
"These gender differences may help explain why males are more attracted to, and more likely to become 'hooked' on video games than females," the researchers wrote in their paper, which was recently published online in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.
More than 230 million video and computer games were sold in 2005, and polls show that 40 percent of Americans play games on a computer or a console. According to a 2007 Harris Interactive survey, young males are two to three times more likely than females to feel addicted to video games, such as the Halo series so popular in recent years.
Despite the popularity of video and computer games, little is known about the neural processes that occur as people play these games. And no research had been done on gender-specific differences in the brain's response to video games.
Reiss, senior author of the study and the Howard C. Robbins Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, has long been interested in studying gender differences; in 2005, he published a study showing that men and women process humor differently. He and his colleagues became interested in exploring the concept of territoriality, and they determined the best way to do so was with a simple computer game.
The researchers designed a game involving a vertical line (the "wall") in the middle of a computer screen. When the game begins, 10 balls appear to the right of the wall and travel left toward the wall. Each time a ball is clicked, it disappears from the screen. If the balls are kept a certain distance from the wall, the wall moves to the right
|Contact: Michelle Brandt|
Stanford University Medical Center