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Games are bad for you

Say scientist and child.

It's official - games will break your thumbs and turn you into a nutjob, according to new reports from a German scientist and a South African schoolgirl.

Klaus Mathiak of the University of Aachen conducted a study of 13 men aged 18 to 26, published in the New Scientist, with the aim of discovering what goes on in gamers' heads while playing.

The subjects were asked to play for two hours a day while Dr Mathiak scanned their brains using magnetic resonance imaging. They were tasked with completing typical first-person shooter objectives - entering an enemy base, rescuing the innocent and killing all the guilty.

Mathiak says he discovered that the part of the brain which deals with emotions began to shut off as activity increased in the intellectual part. He reckons the same thing happens when we're confronted with real violence, and concludes that therefore games train our brains not to distinguish between what's real and what's pretend.

But Royal College of Psychiatrists bigwig Mike McClure says this doesn't mean we're all going to go mental. "You would have to say it is a small minority," he told the Scottish Herald.

"Most people can distinguish between them as a game and what they would be doing in reality."

However, while most of us might manage to maintain our understanding of the difference between Games and Real Life, we're still at risk of a syndrome known as PlayStation Thumb.

That's the name given to the familiar experience of being left with sore digits after a marathon gaming session by Safura Abdool Karim, a South African schoogirl who's just had a report published in the country's leading medical journal.

Karim, who is just 13, talked to 120 fellow pupils about the problem as part of a science project. In total, 45 of those questioned said they played games on a regular basis, and 15 complained of experiencing blisters, redness, tingling and a feeling of numbness, particularly in the thumb.

The report compares PlayStation Thumb to Repetitive Strain Injury: "Although RSI is not new, in the past it occurred mainly among adults," Karim wrote.

"Today computers and computer games are creating new medical problems which are becoming common in children." However, Karim said she herself does not own a PlayStation, believing gaming to be "a waste of time."

It's thought that within a few years PlayStation Thumb will be listed in medical textbooks alongside Tennis Elbow, Housewife's Knee and Bachelor's Wrist.