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Interindividual differences in gray and white matter properties are associated with early complex motor skill acquisition

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Lehmann,  Nico
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Department of Sport Science, Faculty of Science and Medicine, University of Fribourg, Switzerland;
Department of Sport Science, Faculty of Human Sciences, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg, Germany;

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Kaminski,  Elisabeth
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Applied Geropsychology and Cognition, TU Chemnitz, Germany;

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Ragert,  Patrick
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Institute of General Kinesiology and Athletics Training, University of Leipzig, Germany;

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Villringer,  Arno
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Division of Mind and Brain Research, Charité University Medicine Berlin, Germany;

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Taubert,  Marco
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Department of Sport Science, Faculty of Human Sciences, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg, Germany;
Center for Behavioral Brain Sciences, Magdeburg, Germany;

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Citation

Lehmann, N., Tolentino-Castro, J. W., Kaminski, E., Ragert, P., Villringer, A., & Taubert, M. (2019). Interindividual differences in gray and white matter properties are associated with early complex motor skill acquisition. Human Brain Mapping, 40(15), 4316-4330. doi:10.1002/hbm.24704.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-4735-1
Abstract
Brain circuits mediate but also constrain experience‐induced plasticity and corresponding behavioral changes. Here we tested whether interindividual behavioral differences in learning a challenging new motor skill correlate with variations in brain anatomy. Young, healthy participants were scanned using structural magnetic resonance imaging (T1‐weighted MPRAGE, n = 75 and/or diffusion‐weighted MRI, n = 59) and practiced a complex whole‐body balancing task on a seesaw‐like platform. Using conjunction tests based on the nonparametric combination (NPC) methodology, we found that gray matter volume (GMV) in the right orbitrofrontal cortex was positively related to the subjects' initial level of proficiency and their ability to improve performance during practice. Similarly, we obtained a strong trend toward a positive correlation between baseline fractional anisotropy (FA) in commissural prefrontal fiber pathways and later motor learning. FA results were influenced more strongly by radial than axial diffusivity. However, we did not find unique anatomical correlates of initial performance and learning to rate. Our findings reveal structural predispositions for successful motor skill performance and acquisition in frontal brain structures and underlying frontal white matter tracts. Together with previous results, these findings support the view that structural constraints imposed by the brain determine subsequent behavioral success and underline the importance of structural brain network constitution before learning starts.