The neural organization of perception in chess experts

Neurosci Lett. 2011 Jul 20;499(2):64-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2011.05.033. Epub 2011 May 23.


The human visual system responds to expertise, and it has been suggested that regions that process faces also process other objects of expertise including chess boards by experts. We tested whether chess and face processing overlap in brain activity using fMRI. Chess experts and novices exhibited face selective areas, but these regions showed no selectivity to chess configurations relative to other stimuli. We next compared neural responses to chess and to scrambled chess displays to isolate areas relevant to expertise. Areas within the posterior cingulate, orbitofrontal cortex, and right temporal cortex were active in this comparison in experts over novices. We also compared chess and face responses within the posterior cingulate and found this area responsive to chess only in experts. These findings indicate that the configurations in chess are not strongly processed by face-selective regions that are selective for faces in individuals who have expertise in both domains. Further, the area most consistently involved in chess did not show overlap with faces. Overall, these results suggest that expert visual processing may be similar at the level of recognition, but need not show the same neural correlates.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Play and Playthings*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology
  • Young Adult