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How video games can affect adolescent brains

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Video games can negatively impact the adolescent brain, resulting in addictive behavior, impacted development and lower social activity, according to an article from Neurology Now's June/July 2014 issue.

According to Dr. David Greenfield, Ph.D., founder of the Center for Internet Technology Addiction and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, gamers are greeted with a rush of dopamine when they play. However, this can result in the brain producing less of the neurotransmitter, leading to diminished levels of dopamine.

Greenfield compares the reward structure of video games — continually playing to hit a high score or kill an enemy — to that of a slot machine. Parents are advised to pay attention to what their kids are playing, establish boundaries and communicate.

However, video games will have a different effect on everyone who plays them. In some cases, video games can even enhance multitasking, visual perception and the brain's ability to process information. According to Ph.D. and assistant research professor in the department of psychiatry at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis Tom Hummer, it's important to know your kid's behavior. Children with healthy social lives, for example, may not need limitation in video games.

"Asking what are the effects of video games is like asking what are the effects of eating food," Dr. Hummer said. "Different games do different things. They can have benefits or detriments depending what you're looking at."