A report published in the Journal of Communication suggests high amounts of violent media exposure may influence genetics associated with behavior.
Dutch researchers Sanne Nikkelen, Helen Vossen, and Patti Valkenburg at the University of Amsterdam’s School of Communication and Research Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam analyzed a violent media consumption survey data provided by the parents of 1,612 children ages 5 to 9.
The parents noted how much violent media i.e. television programming their children viewed, as well as how often they played violent video games. DNA samples were then collected and looked for correlations, reports UPI.
They determined prolonged engagements with violent video games and viewing intensely graphic imagery depicting uncensored, real-world brutality on television may cause variations in serotonin-transporter genes tied to behavior.
The serotonin transporter (aka SERT) is a type of monoamine transporter protein that transports serotonin from the synaptic cleft to the presynaptic neuron. This protein is the target of many antidepressant medications.
Separate medical studies have shown that changes in serotonin transporter metabolism have been associated with alcoholism, clinical depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), hypertension, and generalized social phobias.
Alongside possible genetic alterations associated with viewing violent media, are the arguments of social learning and cognitive theories. These theories suggest children tend to model the behavior they witness in video games and from television, according to Children.gov. Social cognitive theories build upon social learning theory, but suggest that aggression may be activated by learning and priming aggressive scripts. Desensitization and arousal are also included in social cognitive theories.