The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 19 No. 5 • June 2016


INCREASED GRAY MATTER IN THE BRAIN IN PEOPLE WHO LEARN TO JUGGLE

Probably any type of motor training would do it (maybe even golf), but a 2004 study (Draganski, 2004) of individuals learning from being rank amateurs to proficient jugglers (sustained juggling of 3 balls for 60 seconds) discovered increased gray matter in their brains by MRI. Gray matter is composed of myelinated neurons (as is the more well known myelinated white matter). Myelinated brain tracts are critical for connecting brain areas with each other and they are very susceptible to damage, with losses observed in aged humans.

The researchers reported a close relationship between the areas acquiring additional gray matter and the juggling performance.

An article in SCIENCE (Fields, 2010) also discussed the effects of juggling. Referring to a paper (Scholz, 2009), the author described the results as showing “increased white matter structural organization in a brain region important for visuo-motor control 6 weeks after learning to juggle.” He explains that the ability to form new myelin-forming oligodendrocytes “parallels the normal decline in human cognition and decrease in white matter volume after the age of 50.” He further notes that the loss of white matter correlates with the lower results of IQ tests as well as “certain psychiatric conditions” (such as schizophrenia) and suggests that white matter may play a direct role in learning and cognitive function.

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