Need another reminder of the lasting impact that the Pokémon anime franchise has had on those who grew up in the 1990s? Rewind to the summer of 2016, when it became nearly impossible to walk down the street without bumping into a millennial immersed in the wildly successful ‘Pokémon GO’ mobile app. As it turns out, it is not just a sense of nostalgia that was imprinted on the brains of those who grew up collecting and battling Pokémon on their Game Boy consoles. In a recent study, neuroscientists from Stanford University have identified that Pokémon experts share a region of their brains devoted to recognizing these iconic characters.
In the study, 11 experts—those who had played Pokémon games since early childhood—and 11 novices were shown images of a variety of objects, including Pokémon, other cartoon characters, animals, faces, and words. During this task, participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a technique that monitors brain blood flow as a way to visualize brain activity. Unlike the brains of novices, experts’ brains shared a region that responded specifically to Pokémon images. What’s more, the anatomical location of the ‘Pokémon center’ was consistent across the experts’ brains. This region has previously been connected to ‘focused vision’, a logical correlation given that the experts’ first experiences with Pokémon likely involved staring at the tiny characters on a Game Boy screen.
It has been known for some time that there are specific sets of brain cells that respond very selectively to certain visual stimuli, like faces. This study expands that understanding by showing that other childhood experiences, like Pokémon, can bring about this developmental phenomenon in the brain, and that it can last decades.
Managing Correspondent: Benjamin Andreone
News Article: Playing ‘Pokémon’ as a kid may have rewired your brain. Engadget
Original Article: Extensive childhood experience with Pokémon suggests eccentricity drives organization of visual cortex. Nature Human Behavior
Image Credit: Pixabay