Brain Training & Game Play – Activating Your Rat Brain

shogi board - brain training

Shogi Board

To investigate the effects of long term training on the brain, Japanese researchers scanned the brains of expert and amateur Shogi players as they quickly sized up their next move. Shogi is a complex board game analogous to chess. The scientists were surprised to find that the experts tapped into brain regions typically lightly used in humans but more highly developed in mice and rats.

When forced to act quickly the experts relied on an overall assessment of the game board rather that a thorough analysis. Such mental resources weren’t available to the amateurs who lacked the years of specific brain training that frequent shogi games had provided the experts.

Professor Keiji Tanaka, a lead researcher on the project, said the area of the brain being used was in the basal ganglia region, one he did not associate with intelligence:

“The professional players started to use the parts of the brains that are well developed in mice and rats and not so well developed in primates, so the findings were a surprise – by becoming expert, shogi masters start to use all parts of the brain.”

These findings underscore the awareness that by application and dedication we can train or retrain our brains. It also points to the intriguing finding that by becoming expert in an activity we develop areas of the brain that are largely dormant — our rat brain, as it were. Acquiring such expertise develops our “big picture” aptitude, developing our intuition and ability to read a situation or circumstance quickly.

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