Learning juggling or other complex new skills prompts improvements in the brain's signaling network, a finding that could lead to new ways to treat people with diseases such as multiple sclerosis, say U.K. researchers.
The researchers used MRI imaging technology to monitor the brains of healthy young adults who were given weekly juggling training sessions for six weeks and then practiced for 30 minutes a day. The jugglers showed a 5 percent increase in brain white matter compared with non-jugglers, BBC News reported.
The Oxford University study appeared in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
"MRI is an indirect way to measure brain structure and so we cannot be sure exactly what is changing when these people learn," said team leader Dr. Heidi Johansen-Berg, BBC News reported. "Future work should test whether these results reflect changes in the shape or number of nerve fibers, or growth of the insulating myelin sheath surrounding the fibers."
"Of course, this doesn't mean that everyone should go out and start juggling to improve their brains," she added. "We chose juggling purely as a complex new skill for people to learn."