Research: Young Gamers Have Brains Like Gamblers

Illustration for article titled Research: Young Gamers Have Brains Like Gamblers

You gotta know when to hold them, know when to fold then and know when to press X. According to new research, teenage players who game a considerable amount have an enlarged area of the brain's "reward hub", the area with a high concentration of dopamine.


According to the research, this means that heavy gamers get a higher reward sensation, even when losing—much like compulsive gamblers when they are losing.

Lead researcher Dr. Simone Kuhn of Ghent University in Belgium told the Telegraph, "Although our subjects were not addicted to video games in the strict diagnostic sense, the current result seems to suggest that video gaming is related to addiction."


The researchers documented findings from 154 teenagers, aged 14, who played games for an average 12 hours a week, and scanned the subjects' gray matter while they played. The research showed that these players were more willing to take risks and the brain's reward area became activated while playing. This trait is found in gamblers.

While gambling is considered an addiction, there's been a clinical debate whether excessive video gaming (or internet addiction, for that matter) is also an addiction.

Children who love video games have brains like gamblers [Telegraph]

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One important difference between gaming and gambling: when you keep losing at a video game and think "I was so close, one more try" you can overcome the challenge with skill rather than chance alone, like in gambling. Gaming losses force you to become better at the game, whether through increasing your skill level or by learning to exploit weaknesses in the game design.

In gambling you're never more likely to win at one pull of the slot machine than at any other, whereas with something like an FPS or RPG, your chances of winning scale (to some degree) with time invested in the game.

Of course this doesn't apply to many "casual" games or any game with a large chance element involved, but it's something to consider.