Psychologists at Stanford University recently made an intriguing discovery after testing young video-game players. The team of scientist has proven that Pokemon video game activates a specific region of the brain and causes a unique response that doesn’t occur among those who don’t play the game. These findings shed some light on our understanding of how our brain works. It is possible that these discoveries could inspire new approaches to education and the learning process in children in the near future.
Science is already familiar with the connection between certain brain regions and recognition processes. Different parts of our brain are in charge of, for instance, understanding languages and facial recognition. So while our brain responds differently to words and faces, the connection between this type of information and our brain is established instantly.
After testing some new theories on primates, scientists at the Harvard Medical School concluded that the brain could be surprisingly adaptable, especially at a young age. These findings inspired Jesse Gomez to test the brain’s adaptability in humans. Since the part of our brain that governs speech is something that we all share, does this mean that we could develop another shared mental ability? Can the connection between the part of the brain and the data it processes be learned? New findings show that exposure to certain information at a very young age can alter and modify the brain’s recognition abilities.
How a Video Game Became a Part of a Scientific Experiment
Jesse Gomez decided to test his assumptions on young gamers, more precisely, Pokemon fans. He exposed individuals who had spent a lot of time playing the Pokemon game to the images of this franchise’s characters while recording their brain activity. Then, he repeated the experiment with individuals that didn’t play the game a lot as children. The results of the experiment showed that longer exposure to the Pokemon game in childhood led to greater brain activity when the subject was exposed to the images of Pokemon characters. Scientists believe that brains of these participants recognized Pokemon characters somewhat like animals, probably due to some amount of similarity.
This study shows that during childhood, our brain is able to significantly adapt itself to new, unfamiliar content and to establish new connections in order to process that info. By creating new means of recognition, the brain develops different principles of memorizing the said content. Jesse Gomez found video games highly suitable for testing these theories because they are usually displayed on small screens, thus remaining in the players’ central, not peripheral vision. Central vision in humans plays a great role in forming a strong correlation between visual information and brain activity.
Since the Pokemon game rewards the player after successfully recognizing and collecting a character, a certain interest is developed in accurately memorizing and recognizing an image. Having this in mind, we may ask ourselves whether this interest plays some role in this alteration in brain activity.
The findings show that one factor, besides the small screens, plays a crucial role in this phenomenon, and that’s time. The more time examinees spent playing the game, the greater brain activity was recorded. Even though this discovery poses many questions, the findings so far are invaluable for our further understanding of psychology. Our brain showed unexpected competence in making new categories for entirely new information. But in order to do that, our brain has to be exposed to this information for a significant amount of time during the years of its early development. Playing Pokemon video game in childhood stimulates the part of our brain that is called occipitotemporal sulcus and categorizes this brand new visual stimuli as independent content in the player’s brain.
Since playing video games is a relatively new leisure activity, there can be many other ways in which video games affect our brain that we’re not aware of. Modern psychology has already talked about the addictiveness of video games, as well as about the connections that they might have with insomnia, depression or anxiety. But this is the first time that psychology established a firm correlation between video gaming and the way our brain functions.