"Pokemon!" by みのる☆ is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Pokémon live in a special place in our hearts (and brains)

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Who's that Pokémon? Kids who grew up in the 90s catching Pikachu on Game Boys have a special place in their brain for recognising Pokémon. Our brains have areas dedicated to recognising people, places and things which all end up in similar locations in different people's brains. Not all objects can claim their own dedicated region (for example, there are no shoe or car regions), but US researchers have found kids who played hand-held Pokémon games between the ages of 5 and 8 have a region in their brain that is devoted to the anime critters. The researchers say the location is likely to be determined by the size of Pokémon on the video game screen.

Journal/conference: Nature Human Behaviour

DOI: 10.1038/s41562-019-0592-8

Organisation/s: Stanford University, USA

From: Springer Nature

Extensive childhood experience with Pokémon suggests eccentricity drives organization of visual cortex

Abstract

The functional organization of human high-level visual cortex, such as the face- and place selective regions, is strikingly consistent across individuals. An unanswered question in neuroscience concerns which dimensions of visual information constrain the development and topography of this shared brain organization. To answer this question, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan a unique group of adults who, as children, had extensive visual experience with Pokémon. These animallike, pixelated characters are dissimilar from other ecological categories, such as faces and places, along critical dimensions (foveal bias, rectilinearity, size, animacy). We show not only that adults who have Pokémon experience demonstrate distinct distributed cortical responses to Pokémon, but also that the experienced retinal eccentricity during childhood can predict the locus of Pokémon responses in adulthood. These data demonstrate that inherent functional representations in the visual cortex—retinal eccentricity—combined with consistent viewing behaviour of particular stimuli during childhood result in a shared functional topography in adulthood.

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