Thursday, January 22, 2004 Posted: 10:33
AM EST (1533 GMT)
LONDON, England (Reuters) -- It's a great
party trick and useful for circus performers but scientists said
this week that learning to juggle can cause changes in areas of
the adult brain.
Mastering the skill increases the amount
of grey matter in areas of the brain that process and store visual
information, proving what was not thought possible -- that new stimuli
can alter the brain's structure.
A comparison of brain-imaging scans of non-jugglers
and other volunteers before they learned to juggle and three months
later, revealed an increase in grey matter in certain areas of the
newly trained jugglers' brains.
"Our results challenge our view of the human
central nervous system. Human brains probably must be viewed as
dynamic, changing with development and normal learning," said Arne
May, of the University of Regensburg in Germany, who headed the
Grey matter refers to parts of the brain
and spinal cord that are
comprised of the tightly packed nuclei of nerve cells. In the brain
it is mainly found in the outer layers of the cerebrum which is
responsible for advanced mental functions.
In a report in the science journal Nature,
May and his colleagues said brain scans done three months after
the new jugglers had stopped juggling showed the increase in grey
matter had been reduced.
"I believe the challenge we face is...to
be able to adapt and
modulate this knowledge into disease management," May added in an