Does Chess Shrink Your Brain?

I just saw this article:
Beware, Playing Lots of Chess Will Shrink Your Brain!

So, did the elite chess players have huge bulbous temporal lobes for remembering all those chess formations? Did they have massively engorged frontal gyri for considering multiple moves at once? Actually no. There were few structural brain differences between the elite and non-elite players, and those differences that were observed all pointed in the same direction – to localised shrinkage in the brains of the grandmasters and their ilk.


It’s clear that a simple rule – shrinkage is bad / growth is good – just doesn’t work. To provide you with a little wider context of the conflicting picture, there is research suggesting that practice leads to localised thickening of neural matter – for example, musicians often have more neural matter dedicated to the control of their hands and fingers than do non-musicians. Also, cortical thickness shrinks with ageing and tends to correlate with a loss of cognitive performance. But on the other hand, people who are tone deaf (they have “amusia”) have been shown to have extra thick neural matter in their auditory cortex, so thicker doesn’t always mean better. And this new chess study isn’t the first to associate expertise with less brain power or brain usage. For example, earlier this year, a functional brain imaging study showed how little brain activity was exhibited by the Brazilian soccer player Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior when he controlled his foot.

What do you think?

In my language there is a phrase called:
‘Παν μέτρον άριστον’

Τhis means ‘a bit of everything is ideal’.

A couple of chess games never hurt anyone. So , 30 minutes of chess is good, but 5 hours is bad, because they may hinder other intellectual pursuits.

I think same applies for memory. If I sit 5 hours and memorise numbers, it’s a bit too much, unless you train for WMC, GM or something.

It’s nothing new: people with anxiety disorders often have shrunk amygdala, which wouldn’t be the case if bigger meant more active.

<blockquote=Roi>It’s nothing new: people with anxiety disorders often have shrunk amygdala, which wouldn’t be the case if bigger meant more active.

I am not an expert in neurology, so do correct me if I’m wrong. Please correct me if I’m wrong even, I love to learn :slight_smile:

I always thought the Amygdala was the spot to control some emotions, like anger, fear and disgust, but it didn’t create them. A smaller amygdala might mean it is not able to regulate those emotions as well, as it has less neurons to work with. (or are the neurons just more densely packed?). It just gets a signal and says, “yea sure! lets get this emotion going!” simply because it doesn’t have the manpower to check stuff.

That’s what I thought at least :stuck_out_tongue:

I believe it’s analogous to how good jugglers don’t move their arms around as much as bad jugglers do. The better they get the more accurate their throws are, and so they don’t have to use as many different muscles as a beginner who is constantly having to recover inaccurately thrown balls. Localized muscles and “localized thickening of neural matter” seem to me to just be part of the same idea; that being good at something means your body/mind has changed in such a way that doesn’t waste nearly as much energy as a beginner’s would.