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Short-term learning induces white matter plasticity in the fornix

Hofstetter, S., Tavor, I., Tzur Moryosef, S. and Assaf, Yaniv 2013. Short-term learning induces white matter plasticity in the fornix. The Journal of Neuroscience 33 (31) , pp. 12844-12850. 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4520-12.2013

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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has greatly extended the exploration of neuroplasticity in behaving animals and humans. Imaging studies recently uncovered structural changes that occur in gray and white matter, mainly after long-term training. A recent diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) study showed that training in a car racing game for 2 h induces changes in the hippocampus and parahippocampal gyri. However, the effect of short-term training on the white matter microstructure is unknown. Here we investigated the influence of short learning tasks on structural plasticity in the white matter, and specifically in the fornix, in humans and rats. Human subjects performed a 2 h spatial learning task, and rats underwent training for 1 d in a Morris water maze. Between tasks, subjects were scanned with DTI, a diffusion MRI framework sensitive to tissue microstructure. Using tract-based spatial statistics, we found changes in diffusivity indices in both humans and rats. In both species, changes in diffusion in the fornix were correlated with diffusion changes in the hippocampus, as well as with behavioral measures of improvement in the learning tasks. These results, which provide the first indication of short-term white matter plasticity in the human brain, suggest that the adult brain white matter preserves dynamic characteristics and can be modified by short-term learning experiences. The extent of change in white matter was correlated with their extent in gray matter, suggesting that all components of the neural network are capable of rapid remodeling in response to cognitive experiences.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute (NMHRI)
Publisher: Society for Neuroscience
ISSN: 0270-6474
Date of Acceptance: 14 June 2013
Last Modified: 21 Aug 2019 02:17

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