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Open Access Highly Accessed Commentary

Evidence from neuroimaging to explore brain plasticity in humans during an ultra-endurance burden

Stéphane Perrey1* and Kevin Mandrick12

Author affiliations

1 Movement to Health (M2H), Montpellier-1 University, EuroMov, 700 Avenue du Pic Saint Loup - 34090 Montpellier, France

2 Bodysens, 442 Rue Georges Besse, Immeuble Innovation 3 - 30035 Nîmes, France

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Citation and License

BMC Medicine 2012, 10:171  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-171

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Published: 21 December 2012


Physical activity, likely through induction of neuroplasticity, is a promising intervention to promote brain health. In athletes it is clear that training can and does, by physiological adaptations, extend the frontiers of performance capacity. The limits of our endurance capacity lie deeply in the human brain, determined by various personal factors yet to be explored. The human brain, with its vast neural connections and its potential for seemingly endless behaviors, constitutes one of the final frontiers of medicine. In a recent study published in BMC Medicine, the TransEurope FootRace Project followed 10 ultra-endurance runners over around 4,500 km across Europe and recorded a large data collection of brain imaging scans. This study indicates that the cerebral atrophy amounting to a reduction of approximately 6% throughout the two months of the race is reversed upon follow-up. While this study will contribute to advances in the limits of human performance on the neurophysiological processes in sports scientists, it will also bring important understanding to clinicians about cerebral atrophy in people who are vulnerable to physical and psychological stress long term.

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cerebral atrophy; exercise behavior; fatigue; overload; plasticity; running