Examining Bits from the Brains of Jugglers

The international effort to see what, if anything, special might happen to, in, or with the brains of jugglers continues. Jugglers in Germany are the subject of this study. At the time of the study, each juggler stopped juggling and instead clambered into an imaging machine:

Juggling revisited – a voxel based morphometry study with expert jugglers,” Juggling revisited – a voxel based morphometry study with expert jugglers,” P. Gerber, L. Schlaffke, S. Heba, M.W. Greenlee, T. Schultz, T. Schmidt-Wilcke [pictured here], NeuroImage, epub April 7, 2014. (Thanks to @ThatNeilMartin for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at the University of Regensburg, Ruhr Universität Bochum, the University of Bonn, and the Max Plank Insitute for complex systems, Tübingen, Germany, explain:

schmidt-wilcke“to our knowledge there are no studies that investigated expert jugglers, looking for specific features in regional brain morphology related to this highly specialized skill. Using T1-weighted images and voxel-based morphometry we investigated in a cross-sectional study design, 16 expert jugglers, able to juggle at least five balls and an age- and gender-matched group of non-jugglers…. Our study provides evidence that expert jugglers show increased gray matter density in brain regions involved in visual motion perception and eye-hand coordination, i.e. brain areas that have previously been shown to undergo dynamic changes in terms of gray matter increases in subjects learning a basic three-ball cascade.”

Here’s detail from the study. Like all brain imaging studies, the meaning of the data that produced this image is subject to interpretation, as are all things everywhere always:


BONUS: Video of W.C. Fields, one of the great jugglers of the 20th century whose brain was (alas!) never imaged: