White matter helps brain learn

Researchers demonstrate a role for the brain's connective tissue in learning a new task

Erik Vance
Jul 20, 2009
The brain's white matter - generally thought to play second fiddle to the neurons that make up the grey matter - expands along with nearby grey matter when a person learns a new task, scientists at Oxford University report.
MRI of a head
Image: Wikipedia Commons
Just as new neurons may be formed during learning, corresponding new cells in the white matter may be generated as well, said Jan Scholz, a student in the lab of linkurl:Heidi Johansen-Berg;http://users.fmrib.ox.ac.uk/~heidi/ at Oxford University, at a San Francisco meeting of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping last month. "It's the first time that experience-related white matter changes have been seen," Scholz told The Scientist.White matter is often called the wiring of the brain because it connects individual neuron and groups of neurons together. Whether or not it plays a role in learning or cognition, though, is something of a mystery. The Oxford...
NatureThe Scientist


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