Friday, April 17, 2020

Looking at pictures makes your brain’s visual cortex swell!

Wow, talk about dynamic neuroplasticity...Mansson et al (open source) take observations of how rapidly our brains can change to a whole new level. They show that our visual cortex gets bigger when viewing a picture versus a simple fixation cross.
Measuring brain morphology with non-invasive structural magnetic resonance imaging is common practice, and can be used to investigate neuroplasticity. Brain morphology changes have been reported over the course of weeks, days, and hours in both animals and humans. If such short-term changes occur even faster, rapid morphological changes while being scanned could have important implications. In a randomized within-subject study on 47 healthy individuals, two high-resolution T1-weighted anatomical images were acquired (á 263 s) per individual. The images were acquired during passive viewing of pictures or a fixation cross. Two common pipelines for analyzing brain images were used: voxel-based morphometry on gray matter (GM) volume and surface-based cortical thickness. We found that the measures of both GM volume and cortical thickness showed increases in the visual cortex while viewing pictures relative to a fixation cross. The increase was distributed across the two hemispheres and significant at a corrected level. Thus, brain morphology enlargements were detected in less than 263 s. Neuroplasticity is a far more dynamic process than previously shown, suggesting that individuals’ current mental state affects indices of brain morphology. This needs to be taken into account in future morphology studies and in everyday clinical practice.


  1. I wonder what causes this. Maybe related to increased blood flow? Neat stuff :3

  2. Increased blood flow seems likely, but hard to distinguish from plasticity in synapses, neurons, and glial cells. Their open source discussion deals with this issue, the article has some nice color graphics.