Action observation training modifies brain gray matter structure in healthy adult individuals

MA Rocca, S Fumagalli, E Pagani, R Gatti, GC Riccitelli, P Preziosa, G Comi, A Falini, M Filippi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Action observation training (AOT) is thought to facilitate motor system function. We applied voxelwise methods to assess the regional modifications of brain gray matter (GM) volumes and white matter (WM) architecture in healthy subjects following AOT and their correlations with improvements at motor and cognitive functional scales. Forty-two righ-handed healthy subjects were randomized into an experimental (AOT-G, n = 20) and a control (C-G, n = 22) group. The training lasted 2 weeks and consisted of 10 sessions of 45 min each during which subjects watched videos of daily-life actions (AOT-G) or landscapes (C-G), alternated by the execution with the right hand of actions presented in the AOT-G videos. At baseline and follow up, motor and cognitive functional measures as well as brain structural MRI scans were obtained. Tensor-based morphometry and tract-based spatial statistics were used to map longitudinal modifications of GM and WM structures and their correlation with functional scales. After training, both groups improved at cognitive tests, whereas the AOT-G also improved hand motor performance. Following training, no modifications of WM diffusion tensor MRI indexes were detected. After training, compared to C-G, AOT-G had increased volume of the left superior frontal gyrus and decreased volume of the right lingual gyrus. Compared to AOT-G, C-G showed increased volume of the right middle frontal gyrus and left inferior temporal gyrus. In AOT-G, GM volume changes correlated with improvements at cognitive tests. Ten-day AOT in healthy individuals modifies GM structure, promoting structural brain plasticity and functional competence. © 2016 Springer Science+Business Media New York
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1343-1352
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Imaging and Behavior
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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