This is your brain on Pokémon

7 minutes

Scars

19 minutes

Liza

2 minutes

3D-printing coral reefs

4 minutes

The final nights

18 minutes

Parents have long suspected Pokémon rewires kids’ brains. Now there’s evidence

Since 1996, the wildly popular Pokémon media franchise has encouraged kids to geek out over its cast of now more than 800 fictional species. For Jesse Gomez, a neuroscientist at Princeton University, the impact of Pokémon video games presents a unique research opportunity. Inspired by his own childhood love of the original Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue, which reward the Game Boy player for registering small differences between eight-bit renderings of the characters, Gomez developed an experiment to interrogate how the brain processes visual information.

While pursuing a PhD at Stanford University, Gomez presented images of Pokémon to a group of adults who had played the games as kids and another group that hadn’t, and captured fMRI brain images of the results. Ultimately, Gomez found that, when processed by childhood Pokémon players, the images lit up a small groove in the temporal lobe that remained mostly inactive in the brains of Pokémon newbies. This short documentary from NPR’s show Science Friday tracks how Gomez’s work could potentially lead to a better understanding of learning disorders such as dyslexia and, more broadly, how clever psychological experiments can be sparked by personal experience.

Video by Science Friday

Produced: Luke Groskin

How scars continue to shape the mind long after the tissue has settled

Whether born of an accident or an illness, every accumulated scar has in some way shaped the lived experience of the person who carries it. But, even as every scar tells a life-altering story, it’s considered rather tactless to ask someone about their physical marks. This short documentary from the UK directors Rebecca Lloyd-Evans and Laura Dodsworth breaks the taboo. Reaching far beneath the skin, Lloyd-Evans and Dodsworth profile five people with significant scars that vary greatly in appearance and origin – from injuries of war to marks of self-harm to wounds present from birth. In doing so, the film explores the potential for scars to fundamentally alter the way people view themselves, others and the world at large.

Producers and Directors: Rebecca Lloyd-Evans and Laura Dodsworth

Website: Guardian Documentaries

Can you express sounds with sights? An artist takes a crack at animating jazz piano

For his short film Liza, the French animator Bastien Dupriez aimed to create ‘a kind of visual transcription’ of the George Gershwin song Liza (All the Clouds’ll Roll Away) (1929), as performed by the French musician Jean-Michel Pilc. As the rollicking jazz piano builds, the frame splashes with abstract shapes and colours, as well as hints of human forms. The resulting effect is of visuals built to accompany and respond to the mood of the music, rather than the much more familiar inverse experience. Beyond serving as a mesmerising slice of audiovisual eye candy – and it certainly is that – the piece also provokes a bevy of intriguing questions about our multisensory experience of art.

Director: Bastien Dupriez

Ceramic coral reefs and sawdust houses – the architects 3D-printing the future from scratch

3D printing is moving beyond plastics: instead, the American architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello (working together as Rael San Fratello) use a wide array of recycled and organic materials – everything from car tyres and sawdust to grape skins and coffee grounds. Via experimentation with such novel substances, the duo aims not only to create more sustainable approaches to 3D printing, but to brainstorm innovative solutions to pressing societal problems too. This video from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York takes viewers inside Rael San Fratello’s ‘print farm’ in Northern California, and spotlights two of their most promising initiatives – a project to support coral reef restoration via protective clay ‘coral seeding units’, and a prototype cabin built from ceramic and sawdust tiles to help solve California’s affordable housing crisis.

Video by MoMA

Director: Jennifer Sharpe

What a ‘good death’ can look like, in the quiet company of a compassionate stranger

‘When I can’t do things for someone else, I simply become unhappy,’ says Loes Prakke, waiting outside the front door of a small house late one evening. She rings, enters and introduces herself to Joop, an elderly man who is sitting up in bed and clearly sick. She tells him she’ll be staying through the night, so that Joop’s loved one, Ria, can get some rest. After acknowledging his hardship, she offers to spend some time chatting so they might get to know one another a bit.

The third volunteer to watch over Joop in his illness, Loes’s warm presence is a simple yet deeply meaningful gift to the couple – a reassurance that Joop will be cared for and comfortable during this final phase of his life. In her short documentary The Final Nights, the Dutch director Reneé van der Ven matches the gentle presence of her subject with her filmmaking, capturing Loes’s extraordinary gift for compassion with a respectful observational style. In chronicling Loes and Joop’s nights together, the film quietly reflects on the meaning of a ‘good death’, as well as the power of human connection in its many distinct forms.

Director: Reneé van der Ven

Parents have long suspected Pokémon rewires kids’ brains. Now there’s evidence

Since 1996, the wildly popular Pokémon media franchise has encouraged kids to geek out over its cast of now more than 800 fictional species. For Jesse Gomez, a neuroscientist at Princeton University, the impact of Pokémon video games presents a unique research opportunity. Inspired by his own childhood love of the original Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue, which reward the Game Boy player for registering small differences between eight-bit renderings of the characters, Gomez developed an experiment to interrogate how the brain processes visual information.

While pursuing a PhD at Stanford University, Gomez presented images of Pokémon to a group of adults who had played the games as kids and another group that hadn’t, and captured fMRI brain images of the results. Ultimately, Gomez found that, when processed by childhood Pokémon players, the images lit up a small groove in the temporal lobe that remained mostly inactive in the brains of Pokémon newbies. This short documentary from NPR’s show Science Friday tracks how Gomez’s work could potentially lead to a better understanding of learning disorders such as dyslexia and, more broadly, how clever psychological experiments can be sparked by personal experience.

Video by Science Friday

Produced: Luke Groskin

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From Le Petit Journal, 18 February 1912. Photo by Getty

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