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Temporal and spatial dynamics of brain structure changes during extensive learning.

Journal article
Authors Bogdan Draganski
Christian Gaser
Gerd Kempermann
Hans-Georg Kuhn
Jürgen Winkler
Christian Büchel
Arne May
Published in The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience
Volume 26
Issue 23
Pages 6314-7
ISSN 1529-2401
Publication year 2006
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Clinical Neuroscience and Rehabilitation
Pages 6314-7
Language en
Keywords Adult, Brain, anatomy & histology, physiology, Case-Control Studies, Educational Measurement, Female, Hippocampus, anatomy & histology, physiology, Humans, Learning, physiology, Longitudinal Studies, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Neuronal Plasticity, Periaqueductal Gray, anatomy & histology, physiology, Students, Medical, Time Factors, posterior parietal cortex, voxel-based morphometry, adult neurogenesis, human hippocampus, memory retrieval, term-memory, network, plasticity, musicians, stress
Subject categories Neuroscience


The current view regarding human long-term memory as an active process of encoding and retrieval includes a highly specific learning-induced functional plasticity in a network of multiple memory systems. Voxel-based morphometry was used to detect possible structural brain changes associated with learning. Magnetic resonance images were obtained at three different time points while medical students learned for their medical examination. During the learning period, the gray matter increased significantly in the posterior and lateral parietal cortex bilaterally. These structural changes did not change significantly toward the third scan during the semester break 3 months after the exam. The posterior hippocampus showed a different pattern over time: the initial increase in gray matter during the learning period was even more pronounced toward the third time point. These results indicate that the acquisition of a great amount of highly abstract information may be related to a particular pattern of structural gray matter changes in particular brain areas.

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