Date Published: January 25, 2019
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Author(s): Wen Chen, Yong He, Chuansheng Chen, Ming Zhu, Suyu Bi, Jin Liu, Mingrui Xia, Qixiang Lin, Yiwen Wang, Wenjing Wang, Lutz Jäncke.
As a visual art form, Chinese calligraphic handwriting (CCH) has been found to correlate with certain brain activity and to induce functional connectivity reorganization of the brain. This study investigated the effect of long-term CCH training on brain functional plasticity as assessed with network measures. With the resting-state fMRI data from 31 participants with at least five years of CCH training and 40 controls, we constructed brain functional networks, examined group differences at both the whole brain and modular levels, and correlated the topological characteristics with calligraphy skills. We found that, compared to the control group, the CCH group showed shorter characteristic path lengths and higher local efficiency in certain brain areas in the frontal and parietal cortices, limbic system, basal ganglia, and thalamus. Moreover, these network measures in the cingulate cortex, caudate nucleus, and thalamus were associated with CCH performance (i.e., copying and creating skills). These results suggest that long-term CCH training has a positive effect on the topological characteristics of brain networks.
Chinese calligraphic handwriting (CCH) is a 3000-year-old art form. To master CCH skills requires years of intensive practice that involves sensory perception, motor skills, as well as multiple cognitive and emotional elements [1, 2]. Following previous research that found both structural and functional brain plasticity in response to many types of intensive training such as musical training [3, 4], driving , and juggling [6, 7], we have examined brain plasticity related to CCH training. Our previous two studies found that CCH training strengthened the RSFC of brain areas involved in updating and inhibition  and decreased the volume of the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) .
The current study explored the effect the long-term experience with CCH on brain network efficiency assessed with parameters based on graph theory. We found that compared to the controls, individuals with long-term CCH training showed advantages in topological characteristics (i.e., Lp, Cp and Eloc) in certain brain areas based on both whole brain and modular analyses. Moreover, within the CCH group, calligraphy skills were associated with brain network efficiency parameters, especially Lp and Eloc.