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Neurobiol Aging. 2014 Jan;35(1):232-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2013.06.021. Epub 2013 Aug 1.

Structural brain plasticity in Parkinson's disease induced by balance training.

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Department of Neurology, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany; Clinic for Cognitive Neurology, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany. Electronic address:


We investigated morphometric brain changes in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) that are associated with balance training. A total of 20 patients and 16 healthy matched controls learned a balance task over a period of 6 weeks. Balance testing and structural magnetic resonance imaging were performed before and after 2, 4, and 6 training weeks. Balance performance was re-evaluated after ∼20 months. Balance training resulted in performance improvements in both groups. Voxel-based morphometry revealed learning-dependent gray matter changes in the left hippocampus in healthy controls. In PD patients, performance improvements were correlated with gray matter changes in the right anterior precuneus, left inferior parietal cortex, left ventral premotor cortex, bilateral anterior cingulate cortex, and left middle temporal gyrus. Furthermore, a TIME × GROUP interaction analysis revealed time-dependent gray matter changes in the right cerebellum. Our results highlight training-induced balance improvements in PD patients that may be associated with specific patterns of structural brain plasticity. In summary, we provide novel evidence for the capacity of the human brain to undergo learning-related structural plasticity even in a pathophysiological disease state such as in PD.


Balance control; Compensation; Learning-dependent plasticity; Parkinson's disease; Postural instability; Voxel-based morphometry

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