By Hwaa Irfan
Over the years, accumulative evidence have demonstrated a direct relationship between violence in young people and violent emanations from the media. This is no surprised for the astute educationalist, parents included who can see in front of their eyes how the imagination of the child is taken over by these games, videos, cartoons, films and T.V. in general.
As one sits, and observe a group of children aged 3- 5 years old play one can see a big difference between the child whose imaginative world is their own, and the child whose imaginative world has been claimed hook, line, and sinker by the very media they watch. The former need little of the toys from the toy industry to delve into a world of exploration, expression, and self development to work out issues, solve problems, and still keep on playing without running out of juice. However a child whose world is not his own re-enacts the world has projected by adults which is much more competitive, selfish, and aggressive – sooner rather later they run out of fodder to keep that world going, and are only left with an imitative self that cannot be fulfilled. Fewer ideas are exchanged; there is always who everyone must follow, and the play verges on risk taking in order to keep it going.
So, it is not surprising, that the latest study proves a direct result between violent video games and violent youth, and that relationship results in a direct change in the structure of the brain. Far too often we underestimate how much our environment and what we make of it changes our perception of reality to the extent that increasingly certain types of behaviour are deemed normal!
Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine, U.S., have found without a shadow of a doubt that there is indeed a direct causation.
Twenty-eight balanced adult males aged 18 – 29 with minimal previous exposure to violent video games. Divided into two groups, the first group were assigned the awesome task of playing a shooting game for 10 hours at home, for a period of a week, and to not play the following week. The other group were assigned the difficult task of not playing any video games for those two weeks.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to analyze the disposition at the beginning of the study. During the two weeks the group tested for effect of violent video games had to carry out an emotional interference task, which was done by pressing buttons according to the colour of visually presented words. Those words were a combination of violent and non-violent words. Then they had to complete a cognitive inhibition counting task which shows ability to control one’s cognitive flexibility and attention.
After only one week of exposure, it was found that the group exposed to violent video games had less activation in the anterior cingulate cortex of the brain. The anterior cingulate cortex is responsible for the ability to control emotions, and aggressive behaviour. In the week following when they had to refrain from video games, the anterior cingulate cortex began to return to normal. But what if a young person has been raised on violent games, news, T.V., and cinema over a long period of time? What would it take to return, if possible, the functioning of their brain back to normal?
The Emotional Brain
The functions central to intelligent behaviour is believed to emanate from the anterior cingulate cortex. Those functions are summarized as:
- The ability to control one’s emotions
- The ability to focus and solve a problem
- Social relations and bonding
- The ability to recognize an error
- The ability to recognize novelty
- The ability to adapt to changing conditions
The anterior cingulated cortex becomes active when a person feels emotions, solves a problem, or is able to process elements of an action if it is the right decision.
Part of the limbic system which is 18% larger in females than it is in males, the anterior cingulated cortex contains a type of neuron that to date has only been found in humans, apes, and whales, and connects to many parts of the brain. This is where the emotions play an important role in the cognition and functioning of a person. They cannot be distinguished at birth, and appear to start forming at four months old. This when a baby is able hold their head with some steadiness, are able to smile spontaneously, to track visually, and to reach for that which they track. Depression in the family has the effect of reducing the size of the anterior cingulate cortex, as well as its activity which underlines the impact an emotional environment has on a growing child. One can observe, children who come from an emotionally suppressed environment learn quite early to suppress their emotions by learning to perform to that level of expectation. They do as they are told, and become initially confused when exposed to an environment that allows them to express their emotions. They become mistrustful until such a time they can trust, and see that source has the only thing that they can really trust. They are then able to experience pleasure freely, and to enjoy the play of their imaginative world which helps them to develop a sense of self control – the same self control that the anterior cingulate cortex is responsible for! When faced with a person who allows for that expression and a person who does not, their point of reference becomes the emotionally suppressing person because they fear being reprimanded by the emotionally suppressing person much more – do we not all seek approval!
New Age Therapies that espouse being free from one’s emotions, can lead to more harm than good. The person is detached from their experience by artificial means, which also affects their memory, cognition and social relations. The emotions are the seat of creativity, and spiritual development, and for a child it is the means by which they are able to do God’s bidding, take one step at a time through their developmental stages. A stage missed only leaves them less equipped for the next stage with ease instead of the accumulative aggression that can be internalized, externalized and/or both as a result of their imagination being hijacked, and/or the modern schooling system which is less to do with education, and more to do with the kind of psychological violence that denies the wholesome functioning of their brain!
Allman, J, Hakeem, A, Erwin, J, Nimchinsky, E, Hofd, P. “The Anterior Cingulate Cortex.” http://saki.caltech.edu/PDFs/AllmanHakeemHofetal2001.pdf
Indiana University School of Medicine (2011, November 30). Violent video games alter brain function in young men. http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2011/11/111130095251.htm