Excessive Online Gaming Shown to Shrink Brain

According to the Scientific American, a study following internet addicts that spent more than ten hours daily playing online games showed that excessive gaming may shrink brains up to 10 to 20% in excessive cases. The study identified addicts by asking questions such as ‘”Do you use the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving an anxious mood?” to “Have you taken the risk of losing a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the Internet?”‘

While those questions are related to internet usage, again, the study revolved around people who used the internet to play online games such as World of Warcraft. These subjects tended to play online games ten hours a day, six days a week. After running the subjects through an MRI scan, focusing specifically on the parts of the brain where “speech, memory, motor control, emotion, sensory and other information occurs,” it was found that certain parts of the brain had shrunk from their normal size. The more severe the addiction, the more pronounced the shrinkage tended to be.

Note, however, that brain shrinkage is not inherently a bad thing. ‘”The effect is quite extreme, but it’s not surprising when you think of the brain as a muscle,” says Friston, who was not involved in the study. “Our brains grow wildly until our early teens, then we start pruning and toning areas to work more efficiently. So these areas may just be relevant to being a good online gamer, and were optimized for that.”‘

The effects of the shrinking are not concretely known. Scientific American postulates that there are many possibilities, ranging from compromising one’s ability to make proper decisions and storing and retrieving information.