Behavioural performance improvement in visuomotor learning correlates with functional and microstructural brain changes

Aloufi, Abdulrahman, Rowe, Fiona ORCID: 0000-0001-9210-9131 and Meyer, Georg
(2021) Behavioural performance improvement in visuomotor learning correlates with functional and microstructural brain changes. NeuroImage, 227.

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A better understanding of practice-induced functional and structural changes in our brains can help us design more effective learning environments that provide better outcomes. Although there is growing evidence from human neuroimaging that experience-dependent brain plasticity is expressed in measurable brain changes that are correlated with behavioural performance, the relationship between behavioural performance and structural or functional brain changes, and particularly the time course of these changes, is not well characterised. To understand the link between neuroplastic changes and behavioural performance, 15 healthy participants in this study followed a systematic eye movement training programme for 30 min daily at home, 5 days a week and for 6 consecutive weeks. Behavioural performance statistics and eye tracking data were captured throughout the training period to evaluate learning outcomes. Imaging data (DTI and fMRI) were collected at baseline, after two and six weeks of continuous training, and four weeks after training ended. Participants showed significant improvements in behavioural performance (faster task completion time, lower fixation number and fixation duration). Spatially overlapping reductions in microstructural diffusivity measures (MD, AD and RD) and functional activation increases (BOLD signal) were observed in two main areas: extrastriate visual cortex (V3d) and the frontal part of the cerebellum/Fastigial Oculomotor Region (FOR), which are both involved in visual processing. An increase of functional activity was also recorded in the right frontal eye field. Behavioural, structural and functional changes were correlated. Microstructural change is a better predictor for long-term behavioural change than functional activation is, whereas the latter is superior in predicting instantaneous performance. Structural and functional measures at week 2 of the training programme also predict performance at week 6 and 10, which suggests that imaging data at an early stage of training may be useful in optimising practice environments or rehabilitative training programmes.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: fMRI, DTI, eye movement, practice, functional brain changes, structural brain changes
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2021 12:26
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2021 08:11
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.117673
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