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    How Playing Chess Can Improve Our Mental Health

    Originally from India, and with more than 1,500 years of history, chess is a strategy game that brings benefits to people. It can provide entertainment and fun but will also enable intellectual, emotional and social development.

    Chess is considered by sports journalists, doctors and players a brain in the gym. It has been pointed out by specialists that chess could prevent and help Alzheimer’s patients and that it is very useful for people in confinement contexts. Neurologists indicate that there is an inverse relationship between more mental exercise and less risk of suffering from senile dementia or Alzheimer’s. Chess is known to be the most important game to exercise the mind. It has been proven that both hemispheres of the brain are activated during a chess game. The left hemisphere is used to identify the pieces, and the right to recognize moves and patterns. Memory is also developed since chess requires keeping a mental record of other games played and analyzing them. 

    Spatial skills are also improved because when playing in front of the chess board you need to understand the position of all the pieces and their movements. It is necessary to remember the previous location of the pieces for the visualization of future positions.

    Several studies show that children with a chess mind at an early age are better at problem-solving, reading, math, and thinking in general. Playing chess involves a great deal of reasoning when planning moves and their consequences. This helps in the development of the prefrontal cortex, promoting better thinking and making better decisions. The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain responsible for planning, judgment, and self-control. 

    A great advantage of playing chess is that it stimulates the growth of dendrites. Dendrites are the branching processes of nerve cells that help transfer neuronal signals. Their growth increases the speed and quality of neuronal communication, which helps improve the brain’s overall processing, leading to improved cognitive abilities

    A chess mind helps not only to develop rational learning but also the most creative part. Moreover, it improves concentration as it is a game in which every move requires attention. Continuous focus on the game, observing each move, planning the next and visualizing involves a great deal of brain processing. The brain is exercised for other everyday situations. 

    A study carried out at the Yeshiva University by The Albert Einstein School of Medicine asserts a chess mind is less likely to start deteriorating and even significantly lowering the risk of dementia due to the significant amount of chess data that is being processed through a mental exercise activity. 

    Thanks to the advancement of science and technology, instruments are being developed that allow us to study both architecture and the functioning of the human brain, and in our case, it gives us the possibility of knowing the chess brain. Different published studies in the last decade by psychologists and scientific conclude how the brain of a chess player works differently from a non-player. For example, doctoral researchers analyzed how a chess mind shows greater activation of the lower-left area of ​​the parietal lobe, the medial para-hippocampal cortex and the fusiform area.  Other researchers also mention that a chess mind produces a bilateral activation of the cingulum, cerebellum and frontal lobe.   

    Chess related investigations are currently studying the benefits that traditional and cross-sectional chess training can bring to children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  

    The objective that is being pursued is to develop a method in which chess can be used as a therapeutic tool for cognitive and emotional training in children with ADHD, that is to bring kids into chess player mindset, an infants chess mind that may benefit from the game.

    A methodology that is being studied takes the game of chess as the protagonist from a double perspective: the traditional game of chess and the use of its components (pieces, board and clock) for therapeutic work. 

    In reality, playing chess is a psychological duel that requires stamina, a will to win, tenacity, readiness for combat and a great deal of resilience.  

    If you do not play chess regularly, you may want to rethink it after knowing these data. Are you ready for the challenge?

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