Brain Scans Reveal A ‘Pokémon Region’ In Adults Who Played As Kids

By scanning the brains of adults who played Pokémon as kids, researchers learned that this group of people have a brain region that responds more to the cartoon characters than to other pictures. More importantly, this charming research method has given us new insight into how the brain organizes visual information.

For the study, published today in the journal Nature Human Behavior, researchers recruited 11 adults who were “experienced” Pokémon players — meaning they began playing between the ages of five and eight, continued for a while, and then played again as adults — and 11 novices. First, they tested all of the participants on the names of pokémon to make sure the pros actually could tell a Clefairy from a Chansey. Next, they scanned the participants’ brains while showing them images of all 150 original pokémon (in rounds of eight) alongside other images, like animals, faces, cars, words, corridors, and other cartoons. In experienced players, a specific region responded more to the pokémon than to these other images. For novices, this region — which is called the occipitotemporal sulcus and often processes animal images — didn’t show a preference for pokémon.