Pokémon fan? Playing the Gameboy games may have changed your brain

Image credit: Nintendo

Were you a big Pokémon fan growing up? Glued to your Gameboy as you hunted down the elusive Mewtwo? Then the way your brain works may have been influenced by your exposure to the pocket monsters.

A study at Stanford University has shown that those who sunk hours into the RPG series as children see a portion of their brain called the occipitotemporal sulcus fire up when presented with imagery from the games.


Having a positive response to a well-loved memory isn't all that surprising, but that specific brain fold being triggered is, as it helps to support a theory that certain types childhood exposure develop specific areas in the brain.

Just as specific areas of the brain are used by large sections of society to recognize faces, signs and numbers, so too has Pokémon-recognition cornered off its own brain fold. It's a finding shared with a recent study of monkeys, again showing the amazing similarities between our species and the primate world.

Pokémon lovers turned out to be excellent test subjects for the study for a few reasons. The early games' fairly regimented structure allowed a reasonable amount of constants in testing, while the handheld nature of the games ensured they were a focus for the visual cortex, being held at arms length, rather than existing in the periphery of our vision.

So it's more than just great marketing or nostalgia kicking in when you get the feels in your jellies when watching the Detective Pikachu trailer – Pokémon have made a life-long home in a dedicated part of your brain.

Gerald Lynch

Gerald is Editor-in-Chief of iMore.com. Previously he was the Executive Editor for TechRadar, taking care of the site's home cinema, gaming, smart home, entertainment and audio output. He loves gaming, but don't expect him to play with you unless your console is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. Before TechRadar, Gerald was Editor of Gizmodo UK. He is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press.