Use your head!

Brains and Brawn, One and the Same


Published: January 25, 2004

Researchers in Germany report that the brain is similar to muscles in that if you exercise, it will grow:

In a study conducted by Dr. Arne May and colleagues at the University of Regensburg in Germany, people who spent three months learning to juggle showed enlargement of certain areas in the cerebral cortex, the thin sheet of nerve cells on the brain's surface where most higher thought processes seem to be handled. They were then asked to quit juggling completely, and three months later the enlarged areas of the cortex had started to shrink.


Both studies show how malleable the brain is under training, a finding already hinted at by the brain's own internal representation, or mapping, of body parts. In monkeys trained to use their fingertips for some task, the areas of the brain devoted to mapping the fingertips will enlarge, suggesting that the brain's various maps of the body are "plastic," in the parlance of neurology, not hard-wired.

Since they can't observe what's going on at the cellular level, the scientists don't know if the new weight is due to new cells or new connections. The people the Times spoke with think it's the connections. There are plenty of them:

The brain has about 100 billion neurons, each of which makes on average 1,000 connections with others, for some 100 trillion interconnections in all, none of them color coded. Learning to juggle, or navigate London streets, must involve a horrendous rewiring job. But the brain's electricians seem to know what they are doing, and no doubt it's good to keep them exercised.

Prediction: This finding will appear in Training, T+D, and the other vehicles of the training industry's popular press with the fervor of The National Enquirer reporting Michael Jackson's affair with Liz Taylor.

Does reading garbage, memorizing the ball scores, looking at porn, and watching Harry Potter movies a dozen times make one's brain heavier? Just thinking about that makes it hard for me to hold my head up.

Posted by Jay Cross at January 25, 2004 11:43 AM | TrackBack

i like it

Posted by: paris und nicky hilton at June 28, 2004 10:50 PM

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