Dr. Xiaohong Wan is a researcher at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan. He graduated from the University of Science and Technology of China in 1999. In 2002, he earned his master's degree from Tohoku University in Japan. In 2006, he received his Ph.D. in engineering from Tohoku University. Since 2006, he has worked at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute as a research scientist. His research focuses on human visual recognition and high-level cognitive mechanisms. He and his colleagues reported that professional shogi players use different parts of their brains than amateurs do when playing this chess-like game. Why these activity patterns appeared only in the expert players is a question that will require further research.
Why did you start this experiment?
To study which part of brain is responsible for "intuition." It came about in 2007 since we had an opportunity to work with Japanese Shogi Association, which provided us with excellent data on professional shogi players.
What were your most significant findings?
Compared to the amateurs, the professionals showed specific brain activation in the precuneus area of the parietal lobe, a region associated with visuospatial images and episodic memory retrieval. A second experiment showed that, when pushed to quickly come up with their next move, the experts showed activation at the head of another region called the caudate nucleus, which is involved in goal-directed behavior. The findings suggest that a circuit between the precuneus and the caudate regions implements the automatic, yet complicated, process of recognizing the key features of a shogi pattern and choosing the next optimal move.
Were these surprising?
We expected [brain] activity in the caudate nucleus, but specific brain activity in the precuneus area of the parietal lobe was not anticipated, although this fining is still in line with previous studies.
What are the potential implications of your findings?
Our findings provide scientific evidence for brain "intuition," and some possible models for artificial intelligence (AI).
What is the next step for your research?
The next step for our research is to explore whether the circuit between the precuneus and the caudate regions works the same way for other professionals when it comes to "intuition," and how we can understand it better so it can be used to train professionals.
These are Dr. Xiaohong Wan's written remarks. Please refer to the video interview for exact quotes.
Related Research Papers
The Neural Basis of Intuitive Best Next-Move Generation in Board Game Experts
Press release: Expert or amateur? Brain scans can tell