Training-induced brain structure changes in the elderly.
It has been suggested that learning is associated with a transient and highly selective increase in brain gray matter in healthy young volunteers. It is not clear whether and to what extent the aging brain is still able to exhibit such structural plasticity. We built on our original study, now focusing on healthy senior citizens. We observed that elderly persons were able to learn three-ball cascade juggling, but with less proficiency compared with 20-year-old adolescents. Similar to the young group, gray-matter changes in the older brain related to skill acquisition were observed in area hMT/V5 (middle temporal area of the visual cortex). In addition, elderly volunteers who learned to juggle showed transient increases in gray matter in the hippocampus on the left side and in the nucleus accumbens bilaterally.