Neuroplasticity: A dedicated brain region for Pokémon

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Neuroplasticity: A dedicated brain region for Pokémon
Neuroplasticity: A dedicated brain region for Pokémon

Pokemon's own brain region

Recognizing faces is crucial for social behavior. We have the plasticity of our visual cortex to thank for the fact that we become experts in this in the course of our development. Even babies prefer to turn to faces, and this is also reflected in the brain: the little ones develop an area specialized in faces, the coordinates of which overlap surprisingly from person to person.

But which object properties determine whether an expert area develops? To answer this question, researchers from Stanford University examined eleven adults who shared one thing in common: They had played Pokémon on the Game Boy excessively in their childhood from the age of five. While the scientists scanned their brains using fMRI, the subjects looked at pictures of Pokémon, animals, words, or cars. Astonishing things came to light: When looking at the pocket monsters, a very specific area of the visual cortex of the former players always stirred. In the control group, however, the region remained silent. The researchers found that the very specific characteristics of the Pokémon, such as the size of their image on the retina, influenced the expression and exact localization of the area.

Apparently things we see most often in childhood can change the architecture of our visual system. The authors conclude that therapeutic interventions, for example in the case of autism or impaired facial recognition, should be carried out at an early age.

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