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Juggling takes stage as brain modifier

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10:48am, January 28, 2004

Learning to juggle is a neat trick for the brain as well as the hands. Two neural areas involved in perceiving and remembering visual motion became 3 percent to 4 percent larger during the 3 months it took volunteers to master a basic three-ball juggling routine, say Arne May of the University of Regensburg in Germany and his coworkers.

Over the next 3 months, the same brain structures then shrank in volume by 1 percent to 2 percent if the jugglers stopped practicing their newfound skill, the scientists report in the Jan. 22 Nature.

Brain changes that result from learning are thought to occur primarily at the synapses where brain cells communicate with one another. However, learning a skill and forgetting one occur on a larger neural scale, summing into discernible volume changes in substantial pieces of brain tissue, May's team theorizes.

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