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No clowning around.

No joke: Learning to juggle can cause changes in human brain structure, say researchers at the University of Regensburg in Germany.

At the start of their study, the scientists performed brain scans on 24 volunteers with no juggling ability. Then they gave half the group three months to learn how to juggle three balls for at least 60 seconds.

After the practice period, brain scans of the 12 jugglers showed more gray matter--brain tissue related to processing information--than scans of the nonjugglers. The catch: When the jugglers stopped tossing the balls for another three months, the, amount of gray matter returned to normal.

"Our results, challenge our view of the human central nervous system (brain and spinal cord)," says lead researcher Arne May. Traditionally, scientists have believed that the adult brain does not change after new experiences.

May suspects that juggling could change how brain cells are made or connected. He hopes his studies will eventually help treat brain diseases.

Resources

For more information related to this issue's news stories, check out the following Web sites:

No Clowning Around

Students can learn more about the brain and its functions at Neuroscience for Kids. Cheek out: http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/neurok.html

Sneaky Squid

Visit the San Diego Natural History Museum's Web site to find out how glowing creatures pull off their light tricks: www.sdnhm.org/kids/lightsalive/

Taxing Sacks

Did you know that almost 90 percent of floating marine debris is plastic? Learn more about ocean pollution by taking a quiz at the California Coastal Commission's Web site: www.coastal.ca.gov/publiced/youth/coastalquiz.html

Scratch and Sniff

To discover the chemistry behind fruit ripening, read: http://plantphys.info/plants_human/fruitgrowripe.html

Out of Whack

Earth is tilted at a 23.5-degree angle. That's one reason for the planet's seasons. Learn more at: www.bbc.co.uk/science/space/solarsystem/earth/solsticescience.shtml
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Life/Brain
Author:Chiang, Mona
Publication:Science World
Date:Apr 5, 2004
Words:317
Previous Article:Gone fishing.
Next Article:Sneaky squid.
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