Grandmaster chess players tap into different parts of their brains than amateurs do when plotting their next move, according to a new study. Researchers from the University of Konstanz in Germany announced their findings today in the journal Nature.
To evaluate brain activity in players of differing ability, Ognjen Amidzic and colleagues measured so-called gamma-band activity in the brains of 10 grandmasters and 10 amateurs, using a new magnetic imaging technique known as magnetoencephalographic recording. While test subjects played against computers, the researchers studied which parts of their brains experienced gamma-bursts during the five seconds following the computer's move. They found that whereas the amateurs' brains exhibited more gamma-bursts in the medial temporal lobe, grandmasters had more gamma-bursts in their frontal and parietal cortices.
The team proposes that the use of the frontal cortex by the grandmasterswho have memorized thousands of moves indicates that they recognize known problems and retrieve solutions for them from their memories. Use of the medial temporal lobe by the amateurs, in contrast, suggests that these players are analyzing unknown moves and forming new long-term memories.