Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

White matter (WM) plasticity during adulthood is a recently described phenomenon by which experience can shape brain structure. It has been observed in humans using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and myelination has been suggested as a possible mechanism. Here, we set out to identify molecular and cellular changes associated with WM plasticity measured by DTI. We combined DTI, immunohistochemistry and mRNA expression analysis and examined the effects of somatosensory experience in adult rats. First, we observed experience-induced DTI differences in WM and in grey matter structure. C-Fos mRNA expression, a marker of cortical activity, in the barrel cortex correlated with the MRI WM metrics, indicating that molecular correlates of cortical activity relate to macroscale measures of WM structure. Analysis of myelin-related genes revealed higher myelin basic protein (MBP) mRNA expression. Higher MBP protein expression was also found via immunohistochemistry in WM. Finally, unbiased RNA sequencing analysis identified 134 differentially expressed genes encoding proteins involved in functions related to cell proliferation and differentiation, regulation of myelination and neuronal activity modulation. In conclusion, macroscale measures of WM plasticity are supported by both molecular and cellular evidence and confirm that myelination is one of the underlying mechanisms.

Original publication




Journal article


Prog Neurobiol

Publication Date





Genome-wide RNA sequencing, MRI, Myelin, Plasticity, White matter, mRNA expression, Animals, Brain, Diffusion Tensor Imaging, Gene Expression, Male, Myelin Sheath, Neuronal Plasticity, Perception, Rats, Rats, Long-Evans, White Matter