Background: Plastic changes to brain structure and function have been reported in elite athletes of various sports. Interestingly, different regions of the brain were engaged according to the type of sports analyzed. Our laboratory reported no difference in total cerebellar volume of basketball players compared to that in the control group using the manual segmentation method. Further detailed analyses showed that elite basketball players had increased volume of the striatum and vermian lobules VI–VII of the cerebellum. We analyzed the brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of basketball players to understand their cerebral cortical plasticity through automatic analysis tools for MRI. Methods: Brain MRI data were collected from 19 male university basketball players and 20 age-, sex-, and height-matched control groups. In order to understand the changes in the cerebral cortices of basketball players, we employed automated MRI brain analysis techniques, including voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and surface-based morphometry (SBM). Results: VBM showed increased gray and white matter volume in both precentral gyri, paracentral lobules and increased gray matter volume in the right anterior superior temporal gyrus. SBM revealed a left dominant increase in both pericentral gyri. Fractal dimensional analysis showed an increase in the area of both precentral gyri, the left subcallosal gyrus, and the right posterior cingulate gyrus. These results suggest a significant role not only for the primary motor cortex, but also for the cingulate gyrus during basketball. Conclusion: Plastic changes of both precentral gyri, the pericentral area, paracentral lobules, and the right superior temporal gyrus were observed in elite basketball players. There was a strong increase of fractal complexity in both precentral gyri and a weak increase in the right posterior cingulate gyrus and left collateral gyrus. In this study, plastic regions linked to functional neuroanatomy were related to the competence required to play basketball.
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- Motor skill
- Spatial perception
ASJC Scopus subject areas