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

2 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


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


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