Want to double your brain’s processing ability?

Gothic chess set staunton
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It is simple: become an expert at something.

Okay, I know it sounds like a joke, or like I was trying to sell you something, but new neuroscience research indicates that expert chess players (grand masters) literally double their processing power by using both sides of their brain to solve a problem, but only if the problem is specific to chess and not other problems.


Researchers tested 8 grand master chess players and a group of naive chess players on two different problems. One problem was chess specific: to identify if pieces on a chess board where in a check position. The second problem was a more general identification of geometrical shapes.

No surprise that the grand master chess players solved the identification of checkmate position compared to the novices. But what is interesting is by using fMRI researchers noted that the novices only used one side of their brain when trying to figure out the chess test. However, the expert chess players used both sides of the their brains: they parallel processed the problem – doubling their processing.

“… once the usual brain structures were engaged, the experts utilised additional complementary structures in the other half, to execute processes in parallel,”

What about the non-chess identification test?

The new to chess players like they had with the chess problem only used one side of the brain to try to solve this task. Interestingly our expert superior performing chess players also only used one side of their brain when doing this non-practiced task.

Take home message:

The research suggests if you practice a task extensively and become an expert (see: 10,000 hour rule to expertise) you likely start using a larger proportion of your brain, including parallel processing on both sides of the brain (double your fun), to increase the efficiency of working on a particular task – be it chess, brain surgery, guitar playing, video game playing, solving math problems, or other specific domain of expertise.

But you got to put in the time and it might not transfer to other cognitive tasks.

You can also check out how to increase your brain efficiency.

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