Juggling as Brain Training

The physical skill of juggling can change the brain’s structure and function for the better, and may be a recommended therapy for brain injuries.

Bogdan Draganski

Bogdan Draganski

Volker Busch

Volker Busch

Bogdan Draganski, now of University of Lausanne collaborated with University of Regensburg colleagues Volker Busch, Ulrich Bogdahn, and Gerhard Schuierer, and Arne May, now of University of Hamburg  with Christian Gaser of University of Jena, to visualize brain plasticity among volunteers who learned to juggle.

Ulrich Bogdahn

Ulrich Bogdahn

Volunteers showed transient and selective structural changes in the left parietal lobe’s posterior cortex  and bilateral central temporal areas brain, areas associated with processing and storing complex visual motion on used whole-brain magnetic-resonance imaging.

Gerhard Schuierer

Gerhard Schuierer

This study demonstrates that the brain’s macroscopic structure can change based on stimuli like juggling, rather than being limited to functional changes in the cortex.

Arne May

Arne May

May and Gaser collaborated with University of Hamburg colleagues Janina Boyke, Joenna Driemeyer, and Christian Büchel in related research.

Christian Gaser

Christian Gaser

This time, they trained 25 people with an average age of 60 years in juggling for 12 weeks, and 25 control group volunteers were not trained.

Christian Büchel

Christian Büchel

The team conducted three MRI brain scans for each participant:

  • Before juggling practice
  • After 3 months of juggling
  • After another 3 months of no juggling.

Jugglers showed significant increase in the brain’s “gray matter,” nerve cells’ bodies responsible for information processing, located in the hippocampus (memory formation), bilateral nucleus accumbens (reward systems that may lead to action) and visual cortext’s middle temporal area.

Without practice during the three months after the training, none of the volunteers retained their ability to juggle and their gray matter declined to pre-training levels.

This suggests the value of continued practice in physical and cognitive skills to maintain brain structure and function.

Jan Scholz

Jan Scholz

University of Oxford’s Jan Scholz, Miriam Klein-FlüggeTimothy E.J. Behrens, and Heidi Johansen-Berg extended this research to demonstrate that people who learn to juggle also increased “white matter” containing axons that connect different cells, not just gray matter.

 The Oxford team conducted baseline brain scans using diffusion tensor imaging to reveal  white matter structure for 24 young men and women volunteers, who later practiced juggling for half an hour a day for six weeks.

Miriam Klein-Flügge

Miriam Klein-Flügge

The researchers compared brain scans of 24 non-juggling volunteers and found that the volunteer jugglers increased white matter in the parietal lobe’s intraparietal sulcus, which integrates vision and reaching and grasping in the periphery of vision.
Even less-skilled jugglers had similar increases in white matter, attributed to amount of time devoted to practice.

Heidi Johansen-Berg

Heidi Johansen-Berg

In contrast, the non-jugglers showed no changes in white matter after the six week period, suggesting value in practicing juggling to develop the brain’s structure and functioning to enable rapid, coordinated movement and body positioning.

Brain scans taken after four weeks without juggling practice showed that the new white matter remained and the amount of gray matter increased, showing some skill retention in the absence of consistent practice.

-*What physical skills do you develop as brain training?

RELATED POSTS:

Twitter:    @kathrynwelds
Blog: Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary 
Google+:
LinkedIn Open Group Psychology in Human Resources (Organisational Psychology)
Facebook Notes:

©Kathryn Welds

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Juggling as Brain Training

  1. Pingback: Symbolic Practice Improves Memorization, Performance | Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary

  2. Pingback: Does Music Training Improve Other Skills? | Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary

  3. Pingback: Listening to Music Increases Endurance, Reduce Perceived Discomfort in Physical Exercise | Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s