Dr. Yang Wang of the Indiana University School of Medicine and colleagues showed a direct relationship between playing violent video games over an extended period of time and a subsequent change in brain regions associated with cognitive function and emotional control.
The controversy over whether violent video games are potentially harmful to players has been debated for many years, Wang said.
"For the first time, we have found that a sample of randomly assigned young adults showed less activation in certain frontal brain regions following a week of playing violent video games at home," Wang said in a statement.
The study involved 28 healthy adult males, ages 18-29, with low past exposure to violent video games, randomly assigned to two groups of 14.
Members of the first group were instructed to play a shooting video game for 10 hours at home for one week and refrain from playing the following week. The second group did not play a video game at all during the two-week period, Wang said.
Each of the 28 men underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging analysis at the beginning of the study, with follow-up after one and two weeks.
"The findings indicate that violent video game play has a long-term effect on brain functioning," Wang said. "These effects may translate into behavioral changes over longer periods of game play."
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.