This Is Your Brain on Alien Killer Pimps of Nazi Doom

Symeohn Fuqua, 14, and his brothers don't play videogames anymore. This wasn't their idea; Symeohn had the bad luck to participate in a study by researchers at Indiana University that found that 30 minutes of slaying enemies on the screen affected the brain for up to an hour afterward. The study didn't look for or find permanent effects, but Symeohn's mother, Twila, didn't wait to unplug the game machine. Even if the effect is temporary, she figures, "by the time it wore off, they'd be playing again."

The study will fuel the debate over whether adolescent fantasies of mayhem should be fed by the powerful technology of videogames. "We suspected there was an emotional connection to these games," says Dr. Donald Shifrin of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "We now have anatomic proof."

Of the study's 44 subjects, half were assigned to splattering Nazis in Medal of Honor: Frontline, while the rest played a fast-paced but bloodless car-chase game. In brain scans afterward, the first group showed higher activity in the emotional centers of the brain, and less in the areas for concentration and inhibition. The implication is that people in that state "make impulsive, bad choices," says Brad Bushman, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan. "In general, violent media increases aggressive thoughts [and] there's good reason to believe [participatory] violent videogames have a stronger effect than violent TV programs or films."

This is hotly disputed by the Entertainment Software Association. Whatever the games' effects on the brain, they can't be all bad, says president Douglas Lowenstein, citing a study that linked videogaming with business success. Blaming videogames for school violence is cheaper than treating "very sick, troubled kids," Lowenstein adds. The danger that her kids might shed blood was far from Twila Fuqua's mind when she pulled the Monopoly board from the closet, but the change has done wonders for her own brain. The house, she says, is finally quiet.