Guest Lecture of Elisabeth Wenger

Guest Lecture of Elisabeth Wenger


From Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung, Berlin


Date: 28th May 2014, 18h c.t.


Venue: Building A2 4, Room 2.16


Topic: Brain plasticity: Temporal dynamics of training-induced gray matter alterations.



Recent evidence suggests that the adult human brain shows potential for plasticity in response to changes in environmental demands. However, the sequential progression of such plastic changes in humans is largely unknown. We trained 15 younger adults for 7 weeks to draw and write with their non-dominant hand. In contrast to a standard pretest-posttest design, magnetic resonance (MR) images were acquired every other day, resulting in approximately 20 MR sessions per person, including both structural and functional imaging sequences. We found that motor training of the left hand triggered gray matter alterations in left and right motor cortex as well as in basal ganglia. The expansion in right motor cortex was followed by a partial renormalization of structure in the presence of stable and high motor performance. The observed time course of gray matter changes revealed by MR imaging is consistent with findings based on animal models, where plasticity often consists of an initial expansion of regional brain volumes, followed by a later phase of efficient restructuring and partial stabilization of new structures, combined with the elimination of pre-existing structures. Our results show the importance of including multiple measurement occasions into MR study designs to better trace the gray matter changes associated with the acquisition of new skills.