Purpose: Several recent studies have identified structural changes in the cerebral cortex that occur with extensive motor training. However, limited studies have been conducted to explore the structural changes of subcortical structures, which are thought to play important roles in motor functioning. This study aims to localize the shape differences of the subcortical structures between the diving players and the nonathlete group.
Methods: Twelve professional players with top-level diving skills and 12 age- and education-matched healthy controls without any training experience were scanned with a 3-T magnetic resonance imaging. Data were processed using FSL-FIRST, a model-based segmentation and registration tool.
Results: Compared with the nonathlete group, we found significant regional inflation in the bilateral thalamus and the left globus pallidus in diving players.
Conclusion: Although we cannot rule out the effect of predispositions, the regional inflation of the thalamus and globus pallidus might reflect the experience-dependent plasticity because of extensive diving training.