Long term memory of a Genius

Anonymous source on the Internet:

 A neuroscientist in Switzerland, Amidzic once aspired to become a professional chess player. He had the “rage to master” and even moved to Russia as a teenager to study intensively with grandmasters. But he reached a plateau at age 23 and had to quit. Reeling from his wrecked dreams, Amidzic went into cognitive science to understand what went wrong. Through the use of brain scans, he discovered a marked difference between grandmasters and highly trained amateur chess players like himself: When grandmasters play chess, the areas responsible for long-term memory and higher-level processing are activated.

Chess titans have anywhere from 20,000 to 100,000 configurations of pieces, or patterns, committed to memory. They are able to quickly pull relevant information from this mammoth database. With a mere glance, a grandmaster can then figure out how the configuration in front of him is likely to play itself out.

Amateurs, by contrast, use short-term memory while playing chess. When they take in new information, it stays in the “small hard drive” of working memory without passing over into the “zip drive” of long-term memory. “Amateurs are overwriting things they’ve already learned,” says Amidzic. “Can you imagine how frustrating that is!”

Amidzic’s research suggests that chess whizzes are born with the tendency to process chess more through their frontal and parietal cortices, the areas thought to be responsible for long-term memory. Players whose medial temporal lobes are activated more will be consigned to mediocrity. He hasn’t yet been able to follow children over time to see if their processing ratio of frontal-and-parietal cortices to medial temporal lobes indeed remains stable, but his retrospective analyses of older players show that their ratio corresponds to their highest historical chess rating, as would be expected if the ratio truly predicts chess performance. And he doesn’t think that gender influences this proclivity. He had scanned the brain of a 22-year-old female chess beginner and found her ratio to be far above average. If she sets her mind to it, Amidzic believes, the young woman has the potential to become a master-level player.

Amidzic’s own chess-processing ratio, on the other hand, is about 50-50. “I’m the Salieri of the chess world,” he says. “I’m talented enough to admire and also to know what I will not achieve. It’s better to be ordinary and not know.”

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