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Front. Aging Neurosci., 10 March 2014 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2014.00031

Brain plasticity and motor practice in cognitive aging

Liuyang Cai1, John S. Y. Chan2, Jin H. Yan1,3* and Kaiping Peng1
  • 1Department of Psychology, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
  • 2Department of Psychology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
  • 3Institute of Affective and Social Neuroscience, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen, China

For more than two decades, there have been extensive studies of experience-based neural plasticity exploring effective applications of brain plasticity for cognitive and motor development. Research suggests that human brains continuously undergo structural reorganization and functional changes in response to stimulations or training. From a developmental point of view, the assumption of lifespan brain plasticity has been extended to older adults in terms of the benefits of cognitive training and physical therapy. To summarize recent developments, first, we introduce the concept of neural plasticity from a developmental perspective. Secondly, we note that motor learning often refers to deliberate practice and the resulting performance enhancement and adaptability. We discuss the close interplay between neural plasticity, motor learning and cognitive aging. Thirdly, we review research on motor skill acquisition in older adults with, and without, impairments relative to aging-related cognitive decline. Finally, to enhance future research and application, we highlight the implications of neural plasticity in skills learning and cognitive rehabilitation for the aging population.

Keywords: cognitive development, geriatric rehabilitation, motor performance, movement-dependent neural plasticity, skill acquisition

Citation: Cai L, Chan JSY, Yan JH and Peng K (2014) Brain plasticity and motor practice in cognitive aging. Front. Aging Neurosci. 6:31. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2014.00031

Received: 29 November 2013; Paper pending published: 14 January 2014;
Accepted: 18 February 2014; Published online: 10 March 2014.

Edited by:

Hari S. Sharma, Uppsala University, Sweden

Reviewed by:

Ashok Kumar, University of Florida, USA
Russell J. Andrews, Neurological Surgeon Private Practice, USA
Yu Luo, Case Western Reserve University, USA

Copyright © 2014 Cai, Chan, Yan and Peng. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Jin H. Yan, Institute of Affective and Social Neuroscience, Shenzhen University, 3688 Nanhai Ave, Nanshan District, Shenzhen, 518060, China e-mail: jin.yan@sjsu.edu