Researchers find same area of brain activates for Pokemon players

Researchers at Stanford have found that adults who played a lot of Pokemon video games during their childhood have a region of the brain that is activated by Pokemon characters. The researchers say that for these adults they may have a region of their brains that is fond of images of Wobbuffett, Bulbasaur, and Pikachu. The study helps to shed light on two related mysteries about the visual system in humans.

The scientists say that it had been an open question as to why areas of the human brain respond to words and faces, but not to cars for instance. Researchers say that it has also been a mystery as to why these brain regions appear in the same place in everyone's brain. The team says that a recent study in monkeys performed at Harvard found that in order for the regions dedicated to new categories of objects to develop in the visual cortex, exposure must start when the subject is young, and the brain is malleable and sensitive to visual experience.

One of the researchers spent countless hours as a child playing Pokemon Red and Blue and wondered if his brain and the brains of others like him would respond to Pokemon characters more than other types of stimulus. The team realized they had a good experiment as children roughly the same age all played early Pokemon games on the same device using the same screen and held it at approximately the same arm's distance from their eyes.

The latter point was important because it allowed the researchers to test eccentricity bias. That suggested that the preferential brain activation for Pokemon should be in the part of the visual cortex that processes objects in the central or foveal vision. Subjects for the experiment were then placed into an MRI scanner and shown hundreds of images of Pokemon characters and compared to a control group who had not played the game in their childhood.

The brian activations for Pokemon characters was consistent across all individuals who had played the game as a child. That area is right behind the ear called the occipitotemporal sulcus, an area that usually responds to images of animals, which is something that Pokemon characters resemble. As for parents, worrying games like Pokemon will rot the child's brain; one researcher points out that all the Pokemon playing brains scanned in the experiment had PhDs.