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Differences in Cortical Representation and Structural Connectivity of Hands and Feet between Professional Handball Players and Ballet Dancers


Meier, Jessica; Topka, Marlene Sofie; Hänggi, Jürgen (2016). Differences in Cortical Representation and Structural Connectivity of Hands and Feet between Professional Handball Players and Ballet Dancers. Neural Plasticity, 2016:1-17.

Abstract

It is known that intensive training and expertise are associated with functional and structural neuroadaptations. Most studies, however, compared experts with nonexperts; hence it is, specifically for sports, unclear whether the neuroplastic adaptations reported are sport-specific or sport-general. Here we aimed at investigating sport-specific adaptations in professional handball players and ballet dancers by focusing on the primary motor and somatosensory grey matter (GM) representation of hands and feet using voxel-based morphometry as well as on fractional anisotropy (FA) of the corticospinal tract by means of diffusion tensor imaging-based fibre tractography. As predicted, GM volume was increased in hand areas of handball players, whereas ballet dancers showed increased GM volume in foot areas. Compared to handball players, ballet dancers showed decreased FA in both fibres connecting the foot and hand areas, but they showed lower FA in fibres connecting the foot compared to their hand areas, whereas handball players showed lower FA in fibres connecting the hand compared to their foot areas. Our results suggest that structural adaptations are sport-specific and are manifested in brain regions associated with the neural processing of sport-specific skills. We believe this enriches the plasticity research in general and extends our knowledge of sport expertise in particular.

Abstract

It is known that intensive training and expertise are associated with functional and structural neuroadaptations. Most studies, however, compared experts with nonexperts; hence it is, specifically for sports, unclear whether the neuroplastic adaptations reported are sport-specific or sport-general. Here we aimed at investigating sport-specific adaptations in professional handball players and ballet dancers by focusing on the primary motor and somatosensory grey matter (GM) representation of hands and feet using voxel-based morphometry as well as on fractional anisotropy (FA) of the corticospinal tract by means of diffusion tensor imaging-based fibre tractography. As predicted, GM volume was increased in hand areas of handball players, whereas ballet dancers showed increased GM volume in foot areas. Compared to handball players, ballet dancers showed decreased FA in both fibres connecting the foot and hand areas, but they showed lower FA in fibres connecting the foot compared to their hand areas, whereas handball players showed lower FA in fibres connecting the hand compared to their foot areas. Our results suggest that structural adaptations are sport-specific and are manifested in brain regions associated with the neural processing of sport-specific skills. We believe this enriches the plasticity research in general and extends our knowledge of sport expertise in particular.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Date:2016
Deposited On:29 Nov 2016 14:52
Last Modified:02 Feb 2018 10:51
Publisher:Hindawi Publishing Corporation
ISSN:0792-8483
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/6817397
PubMed ID:27247805

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