2. Dementia and Go

Effects of playing Go on the prevention, suppression of progression and improvement of dementia


Researcher (Research Team for Social Participation and Community Health), Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology
Doctor of Medicine, Board Certified Geriatrician of the Japan Geriatrics Society

Have you ever heard it said that the game of Go is ideal for preventing dementia? Go is a game that yields results in the prevention, suppression of progression, and improvement of dementia.

To maintain the functions of your brain, in addition to physical exercise and diet it’s really important to continue to use your mind. There are a range of activities that require you to use your head, including reading and various handicrafts, but among them a lot of interest in recent years worldwide has focused on board games.

There are many different board games, including Japanese shogi chess, mahjong and Othello, and each of them have their own characteristics. I think that the game of Go has the following features.

  1. The rules of Go are simple, so anyone can enjoy it.
  2. The players are faced with an infinite range of choice of moves, and so the game really stimulates the brain.
  3. The players need to see the big picture while paying attention to various locations on the board
  4. It is necessary to use various cognitive functions depending on the stage of the game, whether the beginning, middle or end.

Go has these qualities, like no other game. Research has suggested that Go improves the attention and working memory (abilities related to memory) of the elderly and may possibly activate higher brain functions strongly related to daily life, such as those of the basal ganglia and frontal lobe (Iizuka, 2018, 2019, 2020).

These findings lead me to believe that starting playing Go or continuing to enjoy it as a hobby may suppress the onset of dementia, slow its progress, and improve it. Go is an example of lifelong learning that will never grow tiring, and is a game that connects people with one another. Let’s all start playing Go as a new purpose in our lives!!


  • Iizuka A, et al. Neural substrate of a cognitive intervention program using Go game: a positron emission tomography study. Aging Clin Exp Res. 2020 Jan 17.
  • Iizuka A, et al. Does social interaction influence cognitive intervention programs? A randomized controlled trial using Go Game. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 34, pp. 324-332. 2019.
  • Iizuka A, et al. Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial of the GO Game Intervention on Cognitive Function. American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias, 33 (3), pp. 192-198. 2018.