In a case that has sparked debate about how much evidence exists to link dementia to a brain lesion, doctors have revealed a patient with a brain condition known as CTE who had a history of playing violent video games.
A rare condition, CTE is defined by a body of research linking the degenerative brain disease to repetitive brain trauma.
The disease causes the brain to shrink, and can lead to memory loss, anxiety and dementia.”CTE is associated with an abnormality in the connectivity between neurons, the wiring between nerve cells, and between brain regions,” said Dr. Jeffrey L. Zaremba, an associate professor of neurobiology at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author of a new paper published online in the journal PLOS ONE.
“It is very, very unusual, and it’s something that’s only now being studied.
So we’re still trying to understand the mechanisms involved.”
The new paper looked at CTE cases that occurred between the ages of 35 and 70, and included more than 300 people.
Of the cases, more than half had experienced traumatic brain injury, and nearly two-thirds had had other neurological conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.
Among those who were diagnosed with CTE were those who played violent video game for at least five minutes or more each day, and those who scored higher on the Beck Depression Inventory, a measure of anxiety.
The study authors did not find a link between playing violent games and CTE, but did find evidence of a possible link.
“The most plausible explanation for this association is that it could reflect a biological mechanism that leads to more frequent and prolonged repetitive gaming,” Zaremberg said.
The researchers also noted that, for some players, playing violent gaming can help them with symptoms of CTE.
“In these cases, we can rule out other possible causes of CTS,” Zremba said.
“The more time you play violent games, the more likely you are to have CTE.”
The findings have prompted some scientists to wonder if the brain lesions may have been caused by a neurological disease, but the results are still preliminary.
“There’s a lot of evidence suggesting that CTE can be caused by various kinds of injuries that happen in the brain,” said neuropathologist Dr. John H. Raskin, a professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and lead study author of the new paper.
“And the question is, ‘How much of that is due to a genetic disease, and how much is a neurodegenerative disease?'”
“We need more research to determine if these lesion is due either to a specific disease, or a group of related diseases,” he said.
“These are important questions that will need to be answered in the future.”
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.