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Brain structural changes through the game of baduk (study)

An interesting study of [Seoul National University Hospital][1] | [International Health Care Centre][2]…

direct contact:

SEOUL 110-744, KOREA
International Healthcare Center 82-2-2072-0505
Mobile Tel. 82-10-8831-2890


Brain structural changes through the game of baduk

The research team led by **[Professor Jun Soo Kwon][3]**, SNU College of Medicine, reported a research result that the game of ‘baduk’ has enormous influence on the structural plasticity of the brain.

The structure of the brains of professional ‘baduk’ players shows that different areas of the brain are more closely related to each other and the routes of information transmission are well developed.
A local research team identified for the first time that ‘baduk’, traditional game from the ancient time of Northeast Asia including Korea, has enormous influence on the structural plasticity of the brain.
The research team (1st author: Boreom Lee, Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology) led by Professor Jun Soo Kwon, Department of Psychiatry, SNU College of Medicine, identified the fact that long-term training of ‘baduk ‘have influence on the white matter structural changes of related brain functions through the research on brain imaging. The research result will be covered in the August edition of Neuroimage, famous magazine on brain imaging.

The research conducted in cooperation with the **Korea Baduk Association** was set out to identify differences in brain structure and functions between ordinary people and the Association’s young professional baduk players and trainees trained for more than 10 years.

The study selected 17 young baduk players (average age: 17, 14 men and 3 women players) and carried out experiments on them, including diffusion-tensor image, one of MRI images, for a year starting June 2007. The subjects all participated in baduk training from their childhood and had about 12-year experience in training. Of them, 9 were professional players and the others researchers.

Diffusion-tensor imaging is the latest imaging technology of brain structure to have an naked-eye view of white matters playing as a route to transmit information by connecting all areas of the cerebral cortex in charge of high-level cognitive functions.

The research team identified, through the analysis on diffusion-tensor images, that mutual connectivity of different regions including the frontal lobe, the limbic system, and the subcortex in the brains of baduk players were more developed than those of normal people. These regions are very important to exercise major cognitive functions such as concentration, working memory, execution control ability, and problem-solving ability and the research result suggests that information transmission between such regions takes place more effectively in the brains of people with baduk training.

In addition, white matter changes in the temporal lobe identified in the group of baduk players is a typical characteristic of masters trained for a certain technology for a long term. Normal people store memories piece by piece but professionals store the whole of patterns in the temporal lobe. In other words, baduk experts keep, in a memory reservoir, game patterns specialized based on various experiences acquired through long-term training and take them out in a strategic and efficient manner.

Further, baduk experts were found to have the frontal lobe-subcortex region of the right brain, usually processing non-verbal, spatial, and time information, more developed compared with normal people. This suggests that baduk experts are trained to exercise time-spatial information processing ability quickly and efficiently through repeated baduk training. Also, the fact that the white matters in the right hemisphere of the cerebrum was relatively more changed than in the left hemisphere reflects that the major tasks of the game of baduk are related to spatial characteristics.

“The outcome of this research is expected to contribute to in-depth inspection on the structure and functions of the human brain. The outcome is likely to help to improve educational goals for brain development and treatments of various disorders related to cognitive functions,” said Professor Jun Soo Kwon.

His research team currently conducts the analysis on working memory tests using functional MRI and the analysis on neuropsychology tests in parallel in order to examine the influence of long-term baduk training on functional brain changes. Such research is expected to explain the plasticity of brain functions and the process of cognitive functions based on baduk training in a more comprehensive and succinct manner.

(Source: 1:1 reprint – [SNUH | News][4])

[1]: http://www.snuh.org/english/
[2]: http://www.snuh.org/english/ihc/ihc01/sub01/
[3]: http://www.snuh.org/english/ihc/ihc04/sub01/sub01/viewDoctor.jsp?deptcd=NP
[4]: http://www.snuh.org/english/snuh/snuh06/view.jsp?num=16&global=ENG


Does GO make smarter ?

Often we have such discussion in the OGS or KGS chat and in the GO community around the globe about an interesting question, as Go playing can give some good feelings and even bad emotions, or even headages (doing tough Tsumegos). Here the page which links to two central questions:

(A) Is Go helping to become more smarter ?
(B) What influence has Go on human brain and intelligence ?

I have posted some infos related to this topic, indirectly, e.g.

Feel free to post all infos, e.g. science studies, researches, training methods related to this topic in following.

The Pleasurable Way to a Superior Mind (by Milton N. Bradley)

Tks to Avavt (4k/OGS) sharing this interesting info. As Avavt mentioned, I can follow her to believe that Go at least can help in improving one’s ability to remember & recognize patterns. 


© 2004 Milton N. Bradley


Milton N. Bradley with Clayton Wilkie assisting, giving an outdoor demo of Go at Coindre Hall, Huntington, N.Y. during the Huntington Fall Festival, 1995


○  Rules as simple as checkers. Strategy more profound than chess.
○   No different piece moves to master.
○   No fixed starting setup. Each game uniquely structured by the players themselves.
○  Integral handicap system allows even players of widely different ability to enjoy truly competitive games.
○   Suitable for age 3 – Ph.D.

  • NO “LUCK” OR CHANCE. Just outsmart your opponent to win.

○   Profound Strategy. (Like football, many different plays from the same initial “set”.)
○   Dazzling Tactical Magic. (Like Judo, use the opponent’s strength against him.)
○   Features pincer attacks, ambushes, feints, diversions, traps, and “airborne” invasions behind enemy lines.

  • ALWAYS CHALLENGING. Every game different, never routine or boring..


  • Creates an enjoyable, mentally stimulating environment in which even very young children learn how to:

○  Objectively appraise a competitive situation.
○   Identify what’s important and what’s not.
○  Evaluate the feasible alternatives.
○   Recall/apply pertinent facts and techniques.
○   Develop appropriate alternative strategy and tactics.
○   Calculate the value and risks of each alternative.
○   Prioritize them.<p
○   Make and implement decisions.
○   Observe the outcome, cope with the consequences, and then
○   Repeat the decision making cycle, as appropriate.


○   Long term planning succeeds, “instant gratification” fails.
○   Greed is counter-productive. The opponent must always get his due.
○   No simplistic, fixed plan can succeed against competent opposition. A balanced, flexible approach is the only possible route to victory.
○   Rote memory is useful but insufficient.
○   Deep positional analysis, understanding and sound judgment dominate even the best tactics. No “quick kill” is possible against competent opposition.



  • Overall strategic judgment and patient development dominate tactics.
  • Investment for the future is generally superior to emphasis on immediate profit, but ultimate success almost always requires a carefully balanced set of tradeoffs between both objectives.
  • The game that taught Japan the strategies that have moved them into leadership in such fields as automobiles and semiconductors!



In his regular column “The Empty Board” in the American Go Journal, Vol. 34, #3, Fall 2000, William S. Cobb reports:

“Last June (I visited) Japan to participate in a symposium on the educational benefits of teaching Go in schools. ……. On this trip I discovered that the Japanese have become seriously interested in the possibilities of using Go as a therapy for people with mental problems.”

And Cobb goes on to say:

“In recent years, Dr. Kaneko Mitsuo, a Japanese neurosurgeon with an international reputation, has been working with older people suffering from senile dementia. Using PET scans he has shown that there is substantial area of the right brain that begins to atrophy in people who suffer from dementia. This turns out to be essentially the same part of the brain that is most active when engaging in musical activities and in playing Go. To research this further, Dr. Kaneko has been teaching Go to patients in the beginning stages of dementia. (He) is now convinced that learning to play Go can reverse the development of dementia in virtually all patients in the beginning stages of the disease. Of course, this does not apply to Alzheimer’s, which is still an incurable condition, but it does work for common dementia.”

Other recent medical research indicates that older individuals who vigorously and consistently exercise their REASONING abilities also have a far lower incidence of Alzheimer’s Diseasethan those who do not!

And, as you may have gleaned from the foregoing, for this purpose the 4000 year old game of Go is far superior to any other known mechanism! Why? Because playing Go regularly is not only enjoyable but also results in intense exercise and integration of both left and right brain function to a degree not otherwise achievable!

The number of Alzheimer’s cases in the US has been estimated at 4 million in a total population of about 280 million. But because Alzheimer’s is essentially found only in the elderly, the true basis for comparison is really no more than half that number, or 140 million at most, yielding an expectation of Alzheimer’s incidence in the general population on the order of approximately 3%. Given that there are currently approximately 400 recognized Go professionals in the world, and that there have been many, many thousands in the period from 1612 when Go was institutionalized in Japan under the rule of Shogun Tokugawa until the present time, if their incidence of Alzheimer’s disease was the same as that of the general population there should be at least 6 current sufferers in their ranks, and a long history of those who contracted Alzheimer’s in the past. But in fact there have never been even a single one!

This was validated by the following email I received on Monday June 14, 2004 in response to my enquiry on this subject:

Dear Mr. Bradley,

To our knowledge, there have been no professional go players who have ever suffered from Alzheimer’s. In a note President of the World Bridge Federation recently gave me are put these lines: “Very serious medical studies carried out by universities in California have proved that groups of bridge players, for example, are much less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s than non-players.” It appears that the same goes with Go. There have been published since a couple of years books by Japanese neurologists regarding Go and mental health of the aged persons, all of which have proved positive effects on aged go players. It is related to the function of “right brain”.

Riichi Yamamoto
Advisor, Overseas Dept
Nihon Ki-in

(Source: Milt’s GO Page)

15th/16th Nov 2014: National German PairGO Championship 2014 (pre-announcment)

The German Federal State Go Association of Hessen announced the date for the National German PairGO Championship 2014, for mixed pairs (male + female in one team).

*date:* 15th / 16th November 2014
*venue:* Darmstadt (Bertolt-Brecht-Schule, Kranichsteiner Straße 84)

*conditions:* One player of a team must have less 1 Dan grade, the other less 5 kyu grade, and both are with ownership of German nationality or less are living minimum for 5 years in Germany, plus membership in one of Germany’s federal state Go Associations.

– round robin if there are 6 or less pairs (Rec.: if there are 7 or more pairs there will be played 5 rounds (Swiss System)).
– regular playtime: 60 minutes without bioyomi
– white receives 7 komi

Pre-registrations are noticed with following pairs:

1. Barbara Knauf (3d) and Matthias Terwey (4d) *
2. Manja Marz (4d) and Michael Marz (3d) *
3. Vivian Scheuplein (1d) and Johannes Obenaus (5d)
4. Lisa Ente (3d) and Torsten Knauf (3d) * 5. Jana Hollmann (1d) and Klaus Petri (3d) *

( Source: http://hessen-go.de/index.php?title=Deutsche-Paargo-Meisterschaft_2014 )

*P.S.:* A list with the winners of German Pair GO Championship since 1991 you find on WP here: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deutsche_Meister_im_Go#Deutscher_Meister

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