You may moan, groan or throw a tantrum but there are times when you just can't tear your husband or boyfriend away from his beloved videogame. Now, a new study has found just why the man in your life is so hooked to his game console.
According to a new study, led by Howard C. Robbins Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, it was found that the part of the brain that generates rewarding feelings is more activated in men than women during video-game play.
"These gender differences may help explain why males are more attracted to, and more likely to become 'hooked' on video games than females," the researchers said.
According to a 2007 Harris Interactive survey, young males are two to three times more likely than females to feel addicted to video games.
In the study, the researchers designed a game involving a vertical line, the 'wall', in the middle of a computer screen. When the game begins, 10 balls appear to the right of the wall and travel left toward the wall. Each time a ball is clicked, it disappears from the screen. If the balls are kept a certain distance from the wall, the wall moves to the right and the player gains territory, or space, on the screen. If a ball hits the wall before it's clicked, the line moves to the left and the player loses territory on the screen.
During the study, 11 young males and 11 young females played numerous 24-second intervals of the game while being hooked up to a functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, machine.
fMRI is designed to produce a dynamic image showing, which parts of the brain are working during a given activity.
The volunteers were instructed to click as many balls as possible.
They weren't told that they could gain or lose territory depending on what they did with the balls.
The researchers said that all participants quickly learned the point of the game, and the male and female participants wound up clicking on the same number of balls.
However, the men wound up gaining a significantly greater amount of space than the women. That's because the men identified which balls, the ones closest to the 'wall', would help them acquire the most space if clicked.
"The females 'got' the game, and they moved the wall in the direction you would expect. They appeared motivated to succeed at the game. The males were just a lot more motivated to success," Reiss said.
After analysing the imaging data for the entire group, the research team found that the participants showed activation in the brain's mesocorticolimbic centre, the region typically associated with reward and addiction.
Male brains, however, showed much greater activation, and the amount of activation was correlated with how much territory they gained. But the same case was not with females.
Three structures within the reward circuit, the nucleus accumbens, amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex, were also shown to influence each other much more in men than in women.
The findings indicate that successfully acquiring territory in a computer game format is more rewarding for men than for women.
"I think it's fair to say that males tend to be more intrinsically territorial. It doesn't take a genius to figure out who historically are the conquerors and tyrants of our species-they're the males," Reiss said.