November 15, 2011
Video Game Fanatics Have Bigger Ventral Striatum
Got a big "reward hub" in your brain?
A study in teenagers showed the "reward hub", which is involved in addiction, was larger in regular players.
A report in Translational Psychiatry said it was unknown if games changed the brain or if brain differences made people more likely to play.
What I wonder: have video games shifted people from drug addiction to game addiction? If so, video games might actually be reducing brain damage by giving people something less harmful to get addicted to. On the other hand, since video games are illegal and have less of a stigma about them more people can become addicted to them more easily.
Another question: Do hard core video gamers have the same dopamine D2 receptor variant that puts alcoholics at greater risk of relapse?
People who are alcohol-dependent and who also carry a particular variant of a gene run an increased risk of premature death. This is a recent finding from the interdisciplinary research at the Department of Psychology and the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Researchers in the longitudinal project Göteborg Alcohol Research Project (GARP) have been investigating the dopamine D2 receptor gene and found that a variant of this gene is overrepresented in people with severe alcohol dependency, and that it is linked to a number of different negative consequences that can be of vital significance to the person affected.
"Our research shows that alcohol-dependent individuals, who are also carriers of this gene variant, run 10 times the risk of dying prematurely, compared with the average population," says Claudia Fahlke, a representative from the research team.
What genetic variants make for a bigger ventral striatum?
Mine's bigger than yours.
Your comments raised a thought: is anyone trying to treat drug addiction with video games? I have heard about the Army using video games to treat PTSD.
Chicken and egg question: do gamers start with a bigger Ventral Striatum, or does the stimulus of gaming enlarge the Ventral Striatum?
I personally have treated my drug addiction with video games quite successfully.
Granted I was only mentally addicted as psychedelics were my drugs of choice - but I surely would have inconveniently relapsed into their use if I had not been able to satisfy my needs for excessive novelty through the use of video games.
I personally believe that most drugs should be legalized - and I would use them along with video games if they were - but until then video games provide my reward hub with sufficient stimulation with much lower levels of withdrawl and sleep devrevation.
I am very selective of what I play - since I can be - and I also enjoy the narratives, social commentary, and logic puzzles found in many of the superior games released these days.
Addiction needs to be defined as well. Just because I'm jonesing to play my favorite video game daily does not mean I'm addicted.
Addiction is a very serious issue, casual or even less than casual gamers are not addicted.
Short Definition of Addiction: Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
I've been an on-and-off player of Warcraft II (first released in 1994) and still today play among a numerically small but global community of other players who are nearly all extremely good at the game, down to detail levels that probably absurd to people looking in from the outside. Most of these guys are in their late-20s and early-30s now, and I'm surprised by how often the banter b/w games is about drug use (hard stuff, not just weed) among these guys. They aren't kids anymore, trying to sound rebellious by talking up their highs--these guys really enjoy the stuff, for the same reasons that they enjoy the gaming I guess.
I have to be meticulous about when I play, because I undergo a lot of physical (and probably biochemical) changes when I do--my heart races, my adrenaline is up, my hands often sweat, irascibility shoots through the roof with an exploding temper on a razor's edge, and all my senses of perception seem to increase. Specifically, I don't play when I have anyone else at home with me because I know I'm not pleasant and even a little scary when I'm playing. It's difficult to pull myself away. In short, I'd say I'm addicted (and glad I've been religious in never having used illicit drugs of any kind).
We should thank the gamers for the powerful computers that we have today,or should we thank the D2 receptor gene?