Juggle me this!
January 21, 2004 1:35 PM   Subscribe

Learning to Juggle Causes Changes in the Brain. In a possible twist for the "nature vs. nurture" debate, this study proves "what was not thought possible -- that new stimuli can alter the brain's structure." The head researcher from the University of Regensburg in Germany says "Our results challenge our view of the human central nervous system. Human brains probably must be viewed as dynamic, changing with development and normal learning."
posted by soyjoy (11 comments total)
See also this recent thread.
posted by homunculus at 1:46 PM on January 21, 2004

Cool post, Soyjoy. I love this sort of research.

Juggling changes (and presumeably improves) the brain. Television watching is associated with early onset Alzheimer's....

Become overweight and senile on the couch in front of the tube, or juggle !
posted by troutfishing at 1:49 PM on January 21, 2004

Fun story, but that researcher's statement was overblown. It has been known for some years now that brain structure is changed by training, learning, and practice -- a phenomenon known as "neuroplasticity." Neuroplasticity is also behind the ability of stroke patients to recover some of their lost functions. Sorry for the self-post, but I talked about some fascinating uses of neuroplasticity in an article I wrote for Wired a couple of months ago called The Key to Genius. In other words, yes, this study might prove what was not thought possible... 20 years ago. But brain science has changed radically around this issue.
posted by digaman at 1:55 PM on January 21, 2004

Man, homunculus, you had me convinced this was a double post for a second. But yes, it's certainly related.

For me one of the most fascinating implications of this is in the "born gay" dispute. If it's possible for someone's living a gay lifestyle, say, throughout their adolescence/early adulthood to result in some alteration to the physical brain, is it even possible to prove the "born gay" thesis without carefully measuring brain regions at birth and then checking back a couple decades later?
posted by soyjoy at 1:57 PM on January 21, 2004

Well, where on Earth is there research that claims that living a gay "lifestyle" during the teen years causes measurable changes in brain structure? And forgive me for asking, but what does "living a gay lifestyle" mean? Like, dressing up like the guys on Queer Eye? Sitting at home and reading Whitman's Leaves of Grass? Were the straight guys I had sex with at Oberlin (and there were several) "living a gay lifestyle"?
posted by digaman at 2:08 PM on January 21, 2004

It's all those damned gameshows, troutfishing. They need more Shark Week.
posted by The God Complex at 2:15 PM on January 21, 2004

Were the straight guys I had sex with at Oberlin (and there were several) "living a gay lifestyle"?

Whoa, settle down there, Obie-Man Kenobi.

"Lifestyle" was probably a poor choice. There's no research that I know of that says that consistently having gay sex (which is what I was implying with "lifestyle") changes anything in the brain. My point is that if that is possible, it means any research based on measuring the brain regions of gay adults may be fundamentally flawed.

And please, you don't need to tell me about the "straight" guys at Oberlin. But that's a conversation for another time.
posted by soyjoy at 2:17 PM on January 21, 2004

Sorry for the testy post, Soyjoy. I was in a bad mood all day after Bush's "sanctity of marriage" hogwash last night, and I just couldn't bear hearing another truth-obscuring agenda-laden buzzphrase today. "Gay sex" suits me fine.

> Obie-Man Kenobi

Hilarious. :)
posted by digaman at 2:21 PM on January 21, 2004

Soyjoy points out a very big flaw in many of the nature vs. nurture research, many studies assume the brain is essentially immutable after early childhood.

Which I find strange, because with nothing more than a few courses in college (I was a neuro major undergrad), I can tell they are ignoring a fundemental flaw in their research.

There are more dramatic examples than juggling, e.g. the "locked in" patient who had electrodes that allowed him to have minimal control of a computer cursor via his brain -- it appeared he started to develop a "cursor cortex" in his brain over time.
posted by malphigian at 2:34 PM on January 21, 2004

Hmm, I wonder if video games are as good as juggling in this regard. I mean they're both hand-eye coordination...
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:46 PM on January 21, 2004

Now will my friends stop making fun of me?
posted by themadjuggler at 2:51 PM on January 21, 2004

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