Diffusion MRI of structural brain plasticity induced by a learning and memory task

Blumenfeld-Katzir T, Pasternak O, Dagan M, Assaf Y

PLoS ONE 2011;6(6):e20678

PMID: 21701690


BACKGROUND: Activity-induced structural remodeling of dendritic spines and glial cells was recently proposed as an important factor in neuroplasticity and suggested to accompany the induction of long-term potentiation (LTP). Although T1 and diffusion MRI have been used to study structural changes resulting from long-term training, the cellular basis of the findings obtained and their relationship to neuroplasticity are poorly understood.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDING: Here we used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to examine the microstructural manifestations of neuroplasticity in rats that performed a spatial navigation task. We found that DTI can be used to define the selective localization of neuroplasticity induced by different tasks and that this process is age-dependent in cingulate cortex and corpus callosum and age-independent in the dentate gyrus.

CONCLUSION/SIGNIFICANCE: We relate the observed DTI changes to the structural plasticity that occurs in astrocytes and discuss the potential of MRI for probing structural neuroplasticity and hence indirectly localizing LTP.