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Cereb Cortex. 2007 Jan;17(1):205-10. Epub 2006 Feb 15.

Structural brain alterations following 5 days of intervention: dynamic aspects of neuroplasticity.

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Department of Systems Neuroscience, University of Hamburg, Martinist. 52, 20246 Hamburg, Germany.


Activation-dependent brain plasticity in humans on a structural level has been demonstrated in adults after 3 months of training a visio-motor skill. The exact timescale of usage-dependent structural changes, whether days, months, or years, is, however, still debated. A better understanding of the temporal parameters may help elucidate to what extent this type of cortical plasticity contributes to fast adapting cortical processes that may be relevant to learning and effects of treatments. Using voxel-based morphometry, we are able to show that repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation delivered to the superior temporal cortex causes macroscopic cortical changes in gray matter (GM) in the auditory cortex as early as within 5 days of continuous intervention. These structural alterations are mirrored by changes in cortical evoked potentials attributed to the GM changes and demonstrate the rapid dynamics of these processes, which occur within a time range characteristic for the onset of behavioral effects induced by a variety of treatment methods for neuropsychiatric diseases. Our finding suggests that cortical plasticity on a structural level in adult humans is already detectable after 1 week, which provides support for fast adjusting neuronal systems, such as spine and synapse turnover, and contradicts slow evolving mechanisms, such as neuronal or glial cell genesis.

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