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      Changes in Gray Matter Induced by Learning—Revisited

      1 , 1 , 2 , 1 , 1 , *

      PLoS ONE

      Public Library of Science

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          Abstract

          Background

          Recently, activation-dependant structural brain plasticity in humans has been demonstrated in adults after three months of training a visio-motor skill. Learning three-ball cascade juggling was associated with a transient and highly selective increase in brain gray matter in the occipito-temporal cortex comprising the motion sensitive area hMT/V5 bilaterally. However, the exact time-scale of usage-dependant structural changes occur is still unknown. A better understanding of the temporal parameters may help to elucidate to what extent this type of cortical plasticity contributes to fast adapting cortical processes that may be relevant to learning.

          Principal Findings

          Using a 3 Tesla scanner and monitoring whole brain structure we repeated and extended our original study in 20 healthy adult volunteers, focussing on the temporal aspects of the structural changes and investigated whether these changes are performance or exercise dependant. The data confirmed our earlier observation using a mean effects analysis and in addition showed that learning to juggle can alter gray matter in the occipito-temporal cortex as early as after 7 days of training. Neither performance nor exercise alone could explain these changes.

          Conclusion

          We suggest that the qualitative change (i.e. learning of a new task) is more critical for the brain to change its structure than continued training of an already-learned task.

          Related collections

          Most cited references 18

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          More hippocampal neurons in adult mice living in an enriched environment.

          Neurogenesis occurs in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus throughout the life of a rodent, but the function of these new neurons and the mechanisms that regulate their birth are unknown. Here we show that significantly more new neurons exist in the dentate gyrus of mice exposed to an enriched environment compared with littermates housed in standard cages. We also show, using unbiased stereology, that the enriched mice have a larger hippocampal granule cell layer and 15 per cent more granule cell neurons in the dentate gyrus.
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            Navigation-related structural change in the hippocampi of taxi drivers.

            Structural MRIs of the brains of humans with extensive navigation experience, licensed London taxi drivers, were analyzed and compared with those of control subjects who did not drive taxis. The posterior hippocampi of taxi drivers were significantly larger relative to those of control subjects. A more anterior hippocampal region was larger in control subjects than in taxi drivers. Hippocampal volume correlated with the amount of time spent as a taxi driver (positively in the posterior and negatively in the anterior hippocampus). These data are in accordance with the idea that the posterior hippocampus stores a spatial representation of the environment and can expand regionally to accommodate elaboration of this representation in people with a high dependence on navigational skills. It seems that there is a capacity for local plastic change in the structure of the healthy adult human brain in response to environmental demands.
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              Neuroplasticity: changes in grey matter induced by training.

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: Editor
                Journal
                PLoS ONE
                plos
                plosone
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                1932-6203
                2008
                23 July 2008
                : 3
                : 7
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Systems Neuroscience, University of Hamburg (UKE), Hamburg, Germany
                [2 ]Department of Psychiatry, University of Jena, Jena, Germany
                Baylor College of Medicine, United States of America
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: CB AM. Performed the experiments: JD JB AM. Analyzed the data: JD JB CG AM. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: AM. Wrote the paper: JD CG CB AM.

                Article
                08-PONE-RA-03993
                10.1371/journal.pone.0002669
                2447176
                18648501
                Driemeyer et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                Page count
                Pages: 5
                Categories
                Research Article
                Neuroscience
                Neuroscience/Sensory Systems
                Radiology and Medical Imaging/Magnetic Resonance Imaging

                Uncategorized

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