Researchers at Oxford University say they have proven that juggling improves your brain, a finding that does much to support my much-criticized choice of oral surgeon — Dr. Bonkers Sneezlechips. Sure, he may dress like a clown and his nose honks like a European compact car, but he’s a wizard with the nitrous and he can keep five hankies in the air effortlessly.
Anyway, the Oxford scientists say juggling not only increases the amount of gray matter in your brain, but also alters the composition of white matter. White matter serves as a kind of network of connections between lumps of gray matter:
The Oxford University researchers scanned the brains of 24 adults before and after juggling training and compared the images with those from a control group of 24 other subjects.
After the six week course they could all perform at least two continuous cycles of the traditional three-ball cascade routine. This sparked changes in an area of the brain known as the parietal lobe – which has previously been linked to visual and movement functions.
The researchers also found similar differences in grey matter, some of which were localised to the same area as the white matter changes. And the changes in both types of brain matter were still apparent when subjects were scanned again four weeks after they had last juggled, showing they are quite long lasting.
The researchers say juggling builds brain power because it is a complex activity that stimulates areas of the brain associated with visual tracking and movement. Theoretically this means similar activities could yield similar benefits. Except for hacky-sacking, which makes you instantly retarded.