Playing Pokemon Games as Kids Rewired Our Brains

bulbasaur pokemon
(Photo: The Pokemon Company)

A new study by researchers from Stanford University has found the long lasting impact of playing hours of Pokemon as a kid. Researchers from Stanford have discovered that longtime Pokemon fans have a specific part of the brain dedicated to remembering the hundreds of Pokemon that are a part of the franchise. Researchers found that the occipitotemporal sulcus of test subjects would respond when they identified various pictures of Pokemon. The occipitotemporal sulcus is typically the region of the brain dedicated to identifying types of animals, but playing Pokemon extensively as children seems to have caused the brain to develop the region to identify Pokemon too.

Researchers theorized that because Pokemon fans got their start playing Pokemon on small Game Boy screens, it caused Pokemon fans to all develop similar regions of the visual cortex, a region of the brain used to process what they see. The visual cortex tends to develop when humans are young, so the Pokemon franchise (a franchise geared towards children and played on similarly sized screens) was the perfect case study. Because players were rewarded in Pokemon games for finding and identifying Pokemon species, the games also seem to incentivize players into developing their brains to recognize Pokemon.

The study also indicates that children are capable of developing more specialized brain regions that are used to identify specific objects. The key to developing these regions is giving children a variety of unique and impactful experiences, which in turn stimulates brain activity. Because many kids spent countless hours of their childhood playing Pokemon games, the developed a specialized region of their brain dedicated to identifying the creature.

While the study showed the impact of Pokemon on children, it also provided a useful look into how the brain works. It supports the theory that a child's brain will change based on what children see, how often they see it, and how much they enjoy seeing it. It may also explain why people can still recognize a Wobbuffet or a Cubone, even when they haven't touched a Pokemon game in years.

You can read a full summary of the study here. Let us know if your brain is hardwired for Pokemon in the comment section or find me on Twitter at @CHofferCbus to talk all things Pokemon!


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