Brain-mappers address senate


The Senate Science, Technology and Space Subcommittee held a hearing Thursday
on the effects of entertainment media on children and the potential for using
brain-mapping science to study those effects.

There was testimony from various academics suggesting a causal connection
between TV violence and real violence and arguing that violent and sexual images
are stored as references for future action.

Sexualized violence is "high octane with lingering effects," said Dr. John
Murray from Kansas State University.

There was also the suggestion that there is a causal connection between
educational TV -- Sesame Street, Blues Clues, for example -- and
nonviolence, not to mention better performance in schools.

According to Dr. Daniel Anderson from the University of Massachusetts,
teen-agers interviewed who had watched Sesame Street as preschoolers were
less likely to endorse violent solutions to daily problems, were more likely to
read books for pleasure and were more likely to do better in English, math and
science when they get to high school.

Anderson said there has not been a focus on media in brain studies and that
with enough funds, and when the time is right -- which, he said, is now -- it will
provide an "explosion" of knowledge about how we use our brains to process media
and what the impact on the brain is.

Asked whether the industry has shown any interest in the brain-mapping
studies, Anderson said cable networks particularly have tried to minimize
violence and maximize educational content, "some better than others," and
he is sure that when brain-mapping research reaches a "critical mass," they will
be interested in the results.

The subcommittee is chaired by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who, along with
Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), wants the government to fund the research.