Cognitive learning is associated with gray matter changes in healthy human individuals: A tensor-based morphometry study
Longitudinal voxel-based morphometry studies have demonstrated morphological changes in cortical structures following motor and cognitive learning. In this study, we applied, for the first time, tensor-based morphometry (TBM) to assess the short-term structural brain gray matter (GM) changes associated with cognitive learning in healthy subjects. Using a 3 T scanner, a 3D T1-weighted sequence was acquired from 32 students at baseline and after two weeks. Students were separated into two groups: 13 defined as "students in cognitive training", who underwent a two-week cognitive learning period, and 19 "students not in cognitive training", who were not involved in any teaching activity. GM changes were assessed using TBM and statistical parametric mapping. Baseline regional GM volume did not differ between the two groups. At follow up, compared to "students not in cognitive training", the "students in cognitive training" had a significant GM volume increase in the dorsomedial frontal cortex, the orbitofrontal cortex, and the precuneus (p<0.001). These results suggest that cognitive learning results in short-term structural GM changes of neuronal networks of the human brain, which are known to be involved in cognition. This may have important implications for the development of rehabilitation strategies in patients with neurological diseases.
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