About this Research Topic
Skill learning can induce morphological modifications in the human brain; the nature and timescale of these changes is, however, still elusive. Recent findings suggest that plasticity may be remarkably faster than previously believed, and that volumetric changes in grey matter following skill learning may occur already within minutes of training. Whether such rapid task-dependent increases in cortical volume are apparent (ascribed to concomitant task-related changes in blood flow), or expression of true plasticity (stemming from astrocytes swelling, spines and synapses production, spines maturation and pruning), is still debated.
Animal studies can provide us with deeper insight into the biological underpinnings of skill learning at microscopic level. For example, animal studies have suggested that complex motor skill learning may promote a switch from cortical to subcortical circuits for action selection, enhanced representation of movements in specific cell types, and rewiring of the synaptic corticocortical and thalamocortical connections, along with plasticity in local interneurons. However, even within motor skill learning, specific types of tasks, and different timescales of training, may involve input from different brain structures and induce plasticity at diverse loci in the motor cortex.
Ultra-high field 7 Tesla MRI scanners have recently allowed for sub-millimetric resolution of deep grey matter nuclei and cortical structures, enabling laminar analyses of the different layers of the human cortex and subcortical nuclei in-vivo. Layer analysis may bring us a step forward into bridging histological, ex-vivo examination of the brain and in-vivo exploration of brain plasticity.
With this Research Topic, we aim to gather evidence on rapid brain plasticity induced by skill learning in animal and human studies. Original research articles, methodological papers, and systematic reviews are welcomed.
We encourage the submission of articles employing both animal models and human studies, related research in neuroimaging, and contributions focusing on the molecular mechanisms of brain plasticity.
Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:
(1) Disentangling the effect of skill learning from training effects
(2) Elucidating cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in rapid brain plasticity following skill learning
(3) Stability and duration of brain plasticity changes induced by skill learning
(4) Individual variations in plasticity potential and predictive biomarkers at molecular, neural and behavioral level
(5) Effect of different tasks, and different training protocol, in inducing plasticity
(6) Age-related individual variability in brain plasticity
(7) Methodological advancements that can aid research in rapid brain plasticity (e.g. the use of the 7 Tesla scanners in humans)
Keywords: Brain Plasticity, Skill Learning, Neuroplasticity, Rapid Brain Plasticity, Animal Models, Human Models
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.