If you put hours and hours into games such as Pokémon Red and Blue throughout your childhood, your brain may well have created a small region dedicated to remembering Pikachu and the gang.
Researchers from Standford University have discovered that adults who played Pokémon games extensively as children have a region of the brain which favourably responds to images of the series’ characters. The study presented images of Pokémon characters to both those who played the games regularly and those who have no knowledge of the series, unsurprisingly finding that the brains of regular players responded more.
What is surprising, though, is that it was the very same area of each participant’s brain which activated during the test. Activity was noticed in a brain fold located just behind the ears called the occipitotemporal sulcus, an area believed to respond to images of animals (perhaps the closest thing to Pokémon characters). In the same way we store words and faces, the brain also finds a special, dedicated spot for remembering Charmander, Mewtwo, and all of your favourite pocket monsters.
The study supports the belief that exposure at a young age helps the brain to develop dedicated regions, and also highlights the differences between our central and peripheral vision; the size of a Game Boy screen ensures that the Pokémon characters only take up a small part of the player’s view, meaning that preferential brain activations can be found in the part of the visual cortex that deals with central vision specifically.
If you’re reading this in your twenties or thirties, still with an unexplainable love for all things Pokémon, you can now rest easy knowing that your brain is scientifically hardwired to love it. Wow.