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Researchers study ‘shogi’ players in bid to unravel brain’s mysteries

The Japan Shogi Association have opened the Shogi Super-Brain Research Society with cooperation from the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research to study how the brains of professional “shogi” players work.

Shogi (Japanese chess) players attracted the interest of the researchers because they are famous for their brain power, the association officials said.

Masao Ito, head of the society and a special adviser to the institute’s brain science research center, has long been interested in shogi players’ brains.

He said studying players’ thought processes during a match has intrigued scientists trying to unlock the mysteries of the brain.

The association’s chairman, Kunio Yonenaga, has also been interested in computer shogi and wonders what the difference is between human brains and artificial intelligence.

“The clarification of the mechanism of shogi players’ brains is worth a Nobel Prize,” Yonenaga said.

In 1996, Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov was defeated by IBM’s chess computer Deep Blue. Some say shogi is the only kind of chess that can stand up to a computer.

Yonenaga’s is known for the statement “My older brothers went to the University of Tokyo because they have no brains.”

Hitoshi Matsubara, a professor at Hakodate Future University and a leading expert in computer shogi, is also part of the society, where heated discussions took place at the first meeting.

“We have so far studied the thought processes chiefly by using animal brains. We hope cooperation from the shogi community will lead to a fresh discovery,” Ito said.

A game between a professional player and shogi software will be held in the fall to analyze the player’s brain with MRI equipment and a device to measure brain waves.

The researchers will look at brain activity during the games as well as the differences between professional and amateur players.

This research will not only help the field of brain science but also fields such as robot engineering, medicine and psychology.

It could even be a big step in the development of artificial intelligence.

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