Plasticity in deep and superficial white matter: a DTI study in world class gymnasts
Brain white matter (WM) could be generally categorized into two types, deep and superficial WM. Studies combining these two types WM are important for a better understanding of brain plasticity induced by motor training. In this study, we applied both univariate and multivariate approaches to study gymnastic training-induced plasticity in brain WM. Specifically, we acquired diffusion tensor imaging data from 13 world class gymnasts and 14 non-athlete normal controls, reconstructed brain deep and superficial WM tracts, estimated and compared their fractional anisotropy (FA) difference between the two groups. Taking FA values as the features, we applied logistic regression and support vector machine to distinguish the gymnasts from the controls. Compared to the controls, the gymnasts showed lower FA in four regional deep WM tracts, including the occipital lobe portion of left inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus (IFOF.L), occipital and temporal lobe portion of right inferior longitudinal fasciculus (ILF.R), insular cortex portion of right uncinate fasciculus (UF.R), and parietal lobe portion of right arcuate fasciculus (AF.R). Meanwhile, we found lower FA in the superficial U-shaped tracts within the frontal lobe in the gymnasts compared to the controls. In addition, we detected that mean FA in either the AF.R or the U-shaped tracts connecting the left pars triangularis and superior frontal gyrus was negatively correlated with years of training in the gymnasts. Classification analyses indicated FA in deep WM hold higher potential to distinguish the gymnasts from the controls. Overall, our findings provide a more complete picture of training-induced plasticity in brain WM.
KeywordsNeuroplasticity Tractography Logistic regression Support vector machine (SVM)
anterior thalamic radiation
Inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus
Inferior longitudinal fasciculus
Superior longitudinal fasciculus
Rostral middle frontal
World class gymnasts
Non-athlete normal controls
This work was supported by funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Numbers: 81371535, 81271548, 81428013, and 81471654).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
We declare that we have no competing financial interests.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Institutional Review Board of the State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning at Beijing Normal University (BNU) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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