Selective reward responses to violent success events during video games

Martin Klasen, Krystyna A. Mathiak, Mikhail Zvyagintsev, Pegah Sarkheil, René Weber, Klaus Mathiak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Aggressive behavior in violent video games activates the reward system. However, this effect is closely related to game success. Aim of the present study was to investigate whether aggressive behavior has a rewarding value by itself. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was measured in fifteen right-handed males while playing the video game Carmageddon. Neuroimaging data were analyzed based on violent and non-violent success and failure events. Correlations with subjective game experience measured brain-behavior and -affect relationships. Results revealed a differential involvement of the striatal reward system: non-violent success elicited activation of the ventral striatum, whereas violent success activated specifically the dorsal striatum. Subjective game experience correlated with putamen and medial prefrontal cortex activation specifically for violent success. These results emphasize a differential neural processing of violent and non-violent success events in dorsal and ventral striatum. Virtual violence seems to enable selective responses of the reward system and positive in-game experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-69
Number of pages13
JournalBrain Structure and Function
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
K.A.M. was supported by a Habilitationsstipendium of the Faculty of Medicine, RWTH Aachen, and by the START-Program of the Faculty of Medicine, RWTH Aachen. K.M. was supported by AstraZeneca GmbH (Study Code D1449L00032), the Interdisciplinary Center for Clinical Research (ICCR) Aachen (N4.2), the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG); IRTG 1328, MA 2631/6-1), and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (APIC: 01EE1405A, 01EE1405B, 01EE1405C). All other authors (M.K., M.Z., P.S., and R.W.) report no funding. We thank the ICCR Aachen Brain Imaging Facility for technical assistance and support

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • Aggressive behavior
  • Neuroimaging
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Play fighting
  • Putamen


Dive into the research topics of 'Selective reward responses to violent success events during video games'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this