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Study finds ‘Pokémon region’ in brains of people who played game
The study highlights the incredible neuroplasticity of the brain.
- The study explored humans' developmental window, during which the visual cortex forms regions that recognize specific objects, like faces, words and, surprisingly, Pokémon.
- The results showed that these Pokémon-selective regions exist in the same brain areas among people who played Pokémon as children.
- The findings could help improve treatments for conditions such as autism.
If you spent many hours playing Pokémon as a kid, there's a good chance your brain developed a dedicated region responsible for recognizing the "pocket monsters," according to a new study published in Nature Human Behaviour.
What inspired such a study? Research shows that the visual cortex in humans has a specific region that responds strongly when people look at faces. (Evolutionarily, this is advantageous because being able to quickly distinguish faces can help you tell friend from foe.) Similarly, certain parts of our visual cortex respond when we look at natural scenes or words. It's thought that these parts of the visual cortex form when we're young, during a critical developmental window during which our brains have an especially high level of neuroplasticity.
That's the theory, at least. The team behind the recent study wanted to identify that critical developmental window in humans, and to see "which dimensions of visual information constrain the development and topography of this shared brain organization," they wrote. To do that, they needed a specific visual stimuli that many adults would've spent hours looking at as children. Enter Pokémon Red and Blue, a game in which players familiarize themselves with dozens and dozens of distinct, monster-like creatures.
In the study, the researchers recruited two groups of participants: adults who played Pokémon as kids and adults who hadn't. Using fMRI, the researchers scanned the brains of each group as they were shown images of various things: cartoons, faces, corridors, and Pokémon.
Photo credit: TORU YAMANAKA / Getty Staff
The results showed that only the group who played the game had a specific part of the brain that responded to the sight of Pokémon. What's more, this group also responded to locations in the game, specifically through "place-selective activations," meaning their brains effectively categorized areas in the game as real-world locations. The team suggested that the eccentricity of Pokémon — the animation style, size of the creatures and objects — is what drives young brains to develop a Pokémon-selective region.
"The current finding of a Pokémon-preferring brain region really drives home just how amazing the plasticity of our developing visual system is," wrote Daniel Janini and Talia Konkle of Harvard University in a news comment on the paper.
The findings could help improve treatments for conditions such as autism. For example, people with autism often avoid making eye contact and have trouble recognizing faces. This might be because children with autism don't look at faces in the same way as other children do during a critical time when their young brains are developing. If further studies confirm the recent findings, specialists might be able to create interventions that encourage the development of face-selecting regions in the brain.
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Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
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Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.