Violent Video Games Ruling and the Brain

In a 7-to-2 decision, the Federal Supreme Court struck down California’s restriction on the sale of violent games to minors using the 1st Amendment as their reason. Justice Scalia likened the games to the protection given to books, plays and movies, adding Grimm’s Fairy Tales and High School reading lists as relevant previous examples.

Although my heart says keep the violent games from being made at all, the Court decision seems reasonable using that criteria.  Then I read this from Justice Alito.  The NY Times quotes him as saying “…the majority opinion was too quick to dismiss differences between current video games and other media.

The objective of one game is to rape a mother and her daughters, he wrote. In another, ‘players attempt to fire a rifle shot into the head of President Kennedy as his motorcade passes by the Texas School Book Depository.

Soon, he added, children may play three-dimensional high-definition games wearing equipment that will allow them to ‘actually feel the splatting blood from the blown-off head’ of a victim.”

Research on how our brain grows is clear. New learning and new experiences through our senses are shown to cause our brains to grow.   More connections between neurons are made, thus strengthening and enlarging our brain’s  structure.  After enough repetition of that connection, learning has been established.  The more connections in a brain, the larger it is when compared to images of it before learning has taken place. (We are talking about the tiniest of measurements here.)

Change in the brain’s structure can occur in as little as eight weeks as shown in studies of adults brains before and after the Mindfully Based Stress Reduction training. That is just one example of many studies that show the quickness with which our brain cells can grow when attention is set on a focus daily for a period of time. (See Micheal Baime’s article This is Your Brain on Mindfulness in the July issue of Shambhala Sun.)

Another example of this comes from the study of NY City cab drivers’ brains.  Areas of the brain concerned with time and space orientation and to memory, are significantly larger in the cabbys’ brains. There are many similar examples.

The video games in question are called virtual reality for a reason. For purposes of survival, our brain  and central nervous system is biologically hard-wired to fire quickly in the face of real or perceived danger or threat. When the right brain picks up on something in the environment that is novel or unknown to be safe, (after a quick determination by the left brain if enough time is allowed before action is automatically taken), it alerts our adrenal system to respond by taking a fight, flight or freeze reaction.

So now, my question formed by the implication of the ruling set by the Court yesterday, is this: Is the brain of a minor, whose brain is still developing, going to change and grow as a result of repeatedly seeing, listening, feeling, touching, and focusing their mind and behavioral reaction on a virtual (in vivo) violent action scenario?

The violent and anti-social (rape scene) learning taking place form neuronal firing patterns which grow the connections between brain cells so they will fire quickly in similar circumstances. This will strengthen particular cells to fire a certain pattern and regions stimulated by experiencing the game over time. That’s a sign that something has been learned. This explains why the game player gets better at the game over repeated use.

In time, when in similar situations, the same pattern will automatically fire.  Think about it. Comment’s welcome.

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One Response to Violent Video Games Ruling and the Brain

  1. Delaine says:

    Who are these people who are making these terrible videos, where did they learn?
    The Surperme court is not the court of common sence. It is said “It takes a village to raise a child” and we are failing our children by allowing this trash to be sold in our communities. We can no longer look away and pretend our society is not under attack, It is being undermined and our children are at the front without protection. Speak up, make a noise and defend decency, stand up and be heard, write letters to the editor and to everyone who has a vote. Make a stand, I know we have the numbers, we have been the silent majority far too long, we can make the difference.

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