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Experts' Brains Work Differently Than Amateurs'
Date:1/20/2011

By Madonna Behen
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 20 (HealthDay News) -- In a finding that suggests your brain changes once you become an expert at something, Japanese researchers report that years of daily practice appear to have rewired the brains of professional shogi players.

Neuroscientists at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Wako, Japan, studied a group of professional and amateur shogi players. Shogi is the Japanese version of chess. With the use of real-time brain scans, the researchers discovered that the pros activated different parts of their brains than the amateurs did while studying game patterns and contemplating their next moves.

The findings were published in the Jan. 21 issue of Science.

Senior study author Keiji Tanaka, deputy director of the institute and head of the Cognitive Brain Mapping Laboratory, said the experts' unique brain circuitry enabled them to have "superior intuitive problem-solving capabilities."

Professional shogi players, who have practiced three or four hours a day for several years, "repeatedly note that the best next move comes to their mind 'intuitively,'" the authors wrote. "Being 'intuitive' indicates that the idea for a move is generated quickly and automatically without conscious search, and the process is mostly implicit."

"We assume that the players have developed the unique way to use brain circuitry through more than 10 years of deliberative training, but we have no data of brain activity in those people before they started the training," said Tanaka.

Tanaka and his colleagues studied 11 professional players and 17 amateurs, and identified two brain activations that were specific to the pros. First, both groups of players were shown different shogi board patterns as well as other scenes, but only the experts showed activation in a portion of the parietal lobe known as the precuneus. The other brain difference occurred when the pla
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