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?