Monday, July 25, 2011

Brains on chess

An interesting paper (citation and abstract below) recently came out in which they look at chess master versus amateur brains. It suggests that the "face area" in the brain is not really specialized for recognizing faces, but familiar spatial patterns more generally. In my analysis of the circles, I commonly drew on analogies between facial recognition and chess pattern recognition, and this partially justifies it (for instance, here and especially here).

I no longer am sure the circles are the best way, or even a particularly good way, to plant the seeds of recognition, but I think the overall picture of pattern storage and recognition, draw at the second link above, is sound.

New study:
Bilalić, Langner, Ulrich, and Grodd (2011) Many Faces of Expertise: Fusiform Face Area in Chess Experts and Novices. The Journal of Neuroscience, 13 July 2011, 31(28): 10293-10301.


The fusiform face area (FFA) is involved in face perception to such an extent that some claim it is a brain module for faces exclusively. The other possibility is that FFA is modulated by experience in individuation in any visual domain, not only faces. Here we test this latter FFA expertise hypothesis using the game of chess as a domain of investigation. We exploited the characteristic of chess, which features multiple objects forming meaningful spatial relations. In three experiments, we show that FFA activity is related to stimulus properties and not to chess skill directly. In all chess and non-chess tasks, experts' FFA was more activated than that of novices' only when they dealt with naturalistic full-board chess positions. When common spatial relationships formed by chess objects in chess positions were randomly disturbed, FFA was again differentially active only in experts, regardless of the actual task. Our experiments show that FFA contributes to the holistic processing of domain-specific multipart stimuli in chess experts. This suggests that FFA may not only mediate human expertise in face recognition but, supporting the expertise hypothesis, may mediate the automatic holistic processing of any highly familiar multipart visual input.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Reminder of August 1 deadline for eighth carnival

The August Chess Improvement Carnival, to be hosted by Takchess is coming up. Deadline for submission is August 1. If you want content to be seen, whether yours or someone else's, you can submit posts here.

If you want to host future carnivals, please email me at blue devil [dot] knight at Yahoo.

I plan on seeing this through to number 12, the December Carnival. If you are interested in taking over, let me know. Otherwise we will send this thing out to pasture.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Independence Day Chess Improvement Carnival is up!

The July improvement Carnival is up at The Prodigal Pawn, who is definitely in the spirit of July 4th. For those that don't know, July 4 in the United States is when you blow stuff up to show how much you love the country (ok, really it is the day, in 1776, that the United States declared its independence from British imperial rule). You can learn some American history, chess blog history, and how to get better at chess in his fitting Independence Day Carnival.

Next month is the seventh Chess Improvement Carnival, to be hosted by Takchess, and you can submit posts here. If you want to host future carnivals, please email me at blue devil [dot] knight at Yahoo.