Field of Science

You like video games, but does your brain?

According to CBC in Canada:
Men are more rewarded by video games than women on a neural level, which explains why they're more likely to become addicted to them.
In other words, men like video games more because their brains like them more. Since only one's brain can like or dislike something, this could be rewritten: Men like video games more because they like video games more.

It's hard to blame CBC entirely for this one. I haven't tracked down the article itself, but the abstract remarks:
Males showed greater activation and functional connectivity compared to females in the mesocorticolimbic system... These gender differences may help explain why males are more attracted to, and more likely to become "hooked" on video games than females.
This is hard to parse, and given the authors work at Stanford Medical School, I'm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. However, the way this is phrased seems to have the natural order of investigation backwards. Men are more likely to be addicted to video games than are women. Given they show these particular brain differences during video game playing, we can make some intelligent guesses as to what those parts of the brain do.

Once we understand those parts of the brain much, much better than we do today, we may actually have a good structural model that explains this gender difference. That may be what the authors of the study meant, and they may spell this out in the full article. However, CBC's statement that men are more likely to get addicted to video games because they are "more rewarded on the neural level," is both repetitious and obvious.

See the original CBC article here.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you (and still do even after reading the original paper) --- the main conclusions of the paper are "you feel better when brain regions for feeling better are activated". Well, isn't that amazing? (Warning: ironic mode might be active).

That the conclusions in the original paper (and in the CBC article) are somehow backwards and maybe dubious is even more obvious if you look at figure 1 in the original paper, which shows that men performed better in the game, and probably success is rewarding, becoming visible in the relevant brain systems.

At least they controlled for computer use and video game experience.

Anonymous said...

Updating my previous comment. I got kind of angry about the oversimplifying conclusions of the paper in question and so I posted about the paper myself.

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