Experience-dependent plasticity of white-matter microstructure extends into old age

Neuropsychologia. 2010 Nov;48(13):3878-83. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.08.026. Epub 2010 Sep 15.


Experience-dependent alterations in the human brain's white-matter microstructure occur in early adulthood, but it is unknown whether such plasticity extends throughout life. We used cognitive training, diffusion-tensor imaging (DTI), and structural MRI to investigate plasticity of the white-matter tracts that connect the left and right hemisphere of the frontal lobes. Over a period of about 180 days, 20 younger adults and 12 older adults trained for a total of one hundred and one 1-h sessions on a set of three working memory, three episodic memory, and six perceptual speed tasks. Control groups were assessed at pre- and post-test. Training affected several DTI metrics and increased the area of the anterior part of the corpus callosum. These alterations were of similar magnitude in younger and older adults. The findings indicate that experience-dependent plasticity of white-matter microstructure extends into old age and that disruptions of structural interhemispheric connectivity in old age, which are pronounced in aging, are modifiable by experience and amenable to treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anisotropy
  • Choice Behavior / physiology
  • Corpus Callosum / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Mental Recall / physiology
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reaction Time / physiology