Expert chess players were able to use more of their brain when processing a chess problem compared to novice chess players.
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.
But both the novice and expert chess players used the same amount of their brain when solving a different geometry test that did not involve specific chess knowledge.
From the brain health blog:
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.