90s Kids Will Remember This: Research says part of your brain is dedicated to recognising Pokémon

Too bad if you wanted to use it for something else, if you played Pokémon in the 90s part of your visual cortex has specialised in recognising them all.

If you played the original Pokémon GameBoy games when you were a kid there might be part of your brain tuned specifically to recognise Pokémon.

Researchers used "Pokemon Experts" to delve into the development of the part of the brain called the visual cortex and the ventral temporal cortex, which recognises people, plants, animals and objects according to an article published in Nature Human Behaviour.

They found that there was a consistent pattern in the way the visual part of the brain developed for the "Pokémon experts" in the study, compared to those people who didn't know their Bulbasaurs from their Beedrills.

The researchers think that this is due to the size and the “eccentricity” of the Pokémon designs when playing on the small GameBoy screen.

See that red part of the brain scan next to the Clefairy? That's the brain of a "Pokémon Expert" when they gaze upon one of the original 150. (Source: Gomez, J., Barnett, M. & Grill-Spector, K. Nat. Hum. Behav. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-019-0592-8 (2019).)

Pokémon aren't like anything else our brains would normally categorise and for kids in the middle of PokéMania their developing brains specialised into a dedicated region to memorise them all.

“An intriguing implication of our study is that a common extensive visual experience in childhood leads to a common representation with a consistent functional topography in the brains of adults. This suggests that how we look at an item and the quality with which we see it during childhood affects the way that visual representations are shaped in the brain,” said Gomez, Barnett and Grill-Spector.

The locations in the game also lit up the part of the brain that recognised real world places when shown to the participants.

So that might just be part of the reason why you can still name all 150 of the original 'mons.

You can dig into the full research here Extensive childhood experience with Pokémon suggests eccentricity drives organization of visual cortex.

While you're heading down memory lane, do yourself a favour and check out this updated PokéRap by Polygon’s Brian David Gilbert if you find yourself scratching your head about some of the newer critters.