Playing with Pokémon leaves a physical mark on the brain

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley used the childhood fascination of nowadays adults to test a new theory about how the human brain forms memories. It has already been proven that our mind selects special clusters of neurons to memorize specific images. When tested, these small areas show a pronounced activity - and this property, as it turned out, persists for decades.

The problem is formulated simply - if the brain allocates part of its resources for processing targeted information, we must study this mechanism. But there are problems with implementation, because we have no idea which part of the brain needs to be studied. Ideally, you need to take a young, growing brain, in which all the changes are clearly visible, and then teach it on a specific example and track all the changes. It is necessary to repeat the same with several dozen individuals in order to minimize the influence of personal characteristics.

A practical solution to the problem was suggested by graduate student Jesse Gomez, who recalled that as a child he was fond of playing Pokemon. Then there were no smartphones, everyone played on simple Game Boy, saw the same pictures of characters in the same resolution. That is, the current adults twenty years ago already took part in the necessary experiment, and voluntarily and with enthusiasm.

Gomez gathered a group of volunteers, which in equal parts included Pokémon experts, people completely unfamiliar with the question, and those who knew or heard about them. Then they were put on measuring equipment and started asking questions related to Pokémon. It quickly became clear that old gamers have an active zone, the so-called occipital-temporal groove, where, despite the years, knowledge about Pokémon is stored. In other subjects, this area of ​​the brain did not show any activity.

The experiment confirmed the hypothesis and posed new challenges for scientists - if we know where visual memories are stored in the brain, then what can we do with this information?