The effect of violent imagery has long since been the centre of a heated debate so scientists have now begun various studies looking into how our brains react on a physical level when processing emotional responses
The study, published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience involved showing 22 boys aged between 14 and 17, 60 violent scenes from videos involving street brawling and fist fights.
After the participants had viewed all of the clips their response was then measured used a variety of techniques. The boys were first asked to rate whether they thought each clip was more or less aggressive than the one which preceded it and were brain scanned using magnetic resonance imaging, which records which areas of the brain are active in real time.
In addition to this the participants were also hooked up to an electrode monitor which detected increasing sweat which is a known sign of emotional response.
The results showed that the longer the boys spent watching the videos, in particular those featuring mild to moderate violence, the less they responded to the aggression within them.
The magnetic resonance imaging showed that a specific area of the brain known as the orbitofrontal cortex which is thought to be involved with emotional response, showed a reduced amount of activity to each clip as time went on.
Dr Jordan Grafman believes that frequent exposure to violent videos over a prolonged period of time will eventually result in adolescents feeling fewer emotions over time and could actually produce more violent reactions from teenagers.
“The implications of this include the idea that continued exposure to violent videos will make an adolescent less sensitive to violence, more accepting of violence, and more likely to commit aggressive acts since the emotional component associated with aggression is reduced and normally acts as a brake on aggressive behaviour.” He said.
However other experts have argued that the reason behind violence were too complex to be explained by this kind of laboratory research and have suggested that violence is a social problem with multiple contributing factors as opposed to being a matter of how the brain functions.