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Juggling Can Change Your Brain in a Week

 by Bennett Gordon

Tags: science, juggling, exercise, brain science,

Learning to juggle can have measurable effects on a person’s brain in just seven days, according to new research published in the PLoS One science journal. The study called for 20 volunteers to learn 3-ball cascade juggling, and hooked them up to a brain scan to watch for changes in gray matter. After just 7 days of training, the test subjects’ gray matter in the occipito-temporal cortex had changed. According to the study’s authors, “[n]either performance nor exercise alone could explain these changes.”

The blog Mind Hacks reports that the study’s authors were careful not to specify whether the changes were caused by more neurons, or whether existing neurons had grown in size. It was, however, “an interesting example of rapid 'neuroplasticity', the ability of the brain to adapt structurally to new situations.”

bennett gordon
8/15/2008 4:31:43 PM

Apparently the brains changed back to "their pre-learning state after several weeks without juggling." The study didn't specify if the participants were nerds.

ken adams
8/15/2008 1:31:40 PM

"after 7 days of training......" How much training are we talking about/ How many hours a day? All jokes aside, this is really interesting. I'd be interested in a follow up article on this. Did the participants have to keep juggling over time or just for this one week? When they stopped juggling, a month or two later, what changes in gray matter took place then? (I am picturing retirement centers all over the world sponsoring 'learn to juggle' classes.

jane doe
8/13/2008 11:23:05 AM

How do you learn to juggle? Sign me up!

8/12/2008 11:02:11 PM

I'd expect some serious changes if they started out on bowling pins and whacked themselved in the head a few times. To say nothing of the chainsaws I've seen some guys work with...

heidi girl
7/31/2008 3:43:09 PM

Steph: LOL!! Seriously, I'd be curious to know if age of the volunteers made any difference at all. For instance, was there more change in younger or more change in older volunteers? And was there more change between males or females?

steph g_4
7/29/2008 5:12:27 PM

Finally, an explanation for the connection between juggling and being a complete nerd. Steph Glaros