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Exposure to TV Violence Tied to Brain, Cognitive Abnormalities

Exposure to TV Violence Tied to Brain, Cognitive Abnormalities

Emerging research discovers young adult men who watched more violence on television showed indications of less mature brain development and poorer executive functioning.

The Indiana University School of Medicine study is published online in the journal Brain and Cognition.

For the investigation, researchers used psychological testing and MRI scans to measure mental abilities and volume of brain regions in 65 healthy males with normal IQ between the age of 18 and 29, specifically chosen because they were not frequent video game players.

Lead author Tom A. Hummer, Ph.D., said the young men provided estimates of their television viewing over the past year and then kept a detailed diary of their TV viewing for a week.

Participants also completed a series of psychological tests measuring inhibitory control, attention, and memory. At the conclusion, MRI scans were used to measure brain structure.

Executive function is the broad ability to formulate plans, make decisions, reason and problem-solve, regulate attention, and inhibit behavior in order to achieve goals.

“We found that the more violent TV viewing a participant reported, the worse they performed on tasks of attention and cognitive control,” Hummer said. “On the other hand, the overall amount of TV watched was not related to performance on any executive function tests.”

Hummer noted that these executive functioning abilities can be important for controlling impulsive behaviors, including aggression. “The worry is that more impulsivity does not mix well with the behaviors modeled in violent programming.”

Tests that measured working memory, another subtype of executive functioning, were not found to be related to overall or violent TV viewing.

Comparing TV habits to brain images also produced results that Hummer and colleagues believe are significant.

“When we looked at the brain scans of young men with higher violent television exposure, there was less volume of white matter connecting the frontal and parietal lobes, which can be a sign of less maturity in brain development,” he said.

White matter is tissue in the brain that insulates nerve fibers connecting different brain regions, making functioning more efficient.

In typical development, the amount or volume of white matter increases as the brain makes more connections until about age 30, improving communication between regions of the brain. Connections between the frontal and parietal lobes are thought to be especially important for executive functioning.

“The take-home message from this study is the finding of a relationship between how much violent television we watch and important aspects of brain functioning like controlled attention and inhibition,” Hummer said.

But he cautioned that more research is needed to better understand the study findings.

“With this study we could not isolate whether people with poor executive function are drawn to programs with more violence or if the content of the TV viewing is responsible for affecting the brain’s development over a period of time,” Hummer said.

“Additional longitudinal work is necessary to resolve whether individuals with poor executive function and slower white matter growth are more drawn to violent programming or if exposure to media violence modifies development of cognitive control,” Hummer said.

Source: Indiana University

Exposure to TV Violence Tied to Brain, Cognitive Abnormalities

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Exposure to TV Violence Tied to Brain, Cognitive Abnormalities. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2014/06/19/exposure-to-tv-violence-tied-to-brain-cognitive-abnormalities/71424.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.