The Magic of Plasticity: Why It’s Never Too Late To Learn!

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Plasticity

Some people believe the Earth is flat. Some people even believe that pineapple is a pizza topping. Others believe that younger people learn better than adults.

Whilst the first two beliefs are debatable (to put it mildly), the latter group may have a point…

Plasticity is the capability of the brain to adjust throughout your life. It’s strongly believed that once we hit 25, the brain’s plasticity solidifies. This makes it harder to create neural pathways, which can mean it’s tougher to learn new skills.

However, we believe it’s possible to break apart rigid neural patterns in the brain. We believe in the magic of brain plasticity!


Is Childhood The Golden Age Of Learning?

While the phrase; ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,’ isn’t set in concrete, it does bear a firm truth.

In its formative years, the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain which deals with memory and complex cognitive behaviour) is astonishingly adaptable and moldable. This malleable nature is referred to as neuroplasticity. Subsequently, children are able to absorb new information at a faster rate.

Most neurologists agree that the prefrontal cortex is fully developed by the age of 25. As the brain becomes more rigid it becomes harder to develop new skills.

For example, a lot of educational systems believe it’s easier to learn a new language from a young age. This study on language learning suggests that if you learn a foreign vocabulary after 18, you won’t ever achieve the same proficiency as native speakers.

But don’t fear if you are over 18 or 25 (oh, the memories!). At Growth Engineering, we believe you should never lose your thirst for knowledge, regardless of your age. That’s why learning is at the core of our award winning Academy LMS.


What Is Your Brain Age?

There is a simple test you can perform to measure the age of your brain. Whilst this shouldn’t be regarded as 100% scientifically accurate, it does indicate the agility of your reflexes.

Ask a person to drop a vertically positioned 30 cm ruler into your hand. Ensure they do not warn you of when they will let go.

Clutch the ruler as soon as you see/feel it drop. The lower the measurement, the quicker (or younger) your brain is. Check your answers here:

  • Less than 10 cm = age 20
  • 15 cm = age 25
  • 20 cm = age 30
  • 25 cm = age 35
  • 30 cm or a complete miss = age 40+

Even if your brain is younger than you thought, it’s always good to keep on top of your brain. Which brings us to our next point: is it possible to claw back time and increase your brain’s plasticity?


Can You Make Your Brain Younger?

We’ve concluded that children learn at a faster rate due to the moldable nature of their brains. The good news is that it’s never too late to remold your brain to promote better learning! Here are some techniques to help rejuvenate your neuroplasticity:

Mental Stimulation

Brainy activities inspire new relations between nerve cells. This helps cultivate the magic of plasticity! There’s a whole assortment of mental gymnastics you can practice. Test your recall by memorising a list of items. Run through some mental arithmetic in your head. How about doubling a number (i.e. 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 etc.)? Another great example is ‘gnicitcarp drawkcab gnilleps’, (or ‘practicing backward spelling’).

Learn To Play An Instrument

If you’ve always wanted to take up an instrument but never have, now might be the time…

Practising the piano (as well as other instruments) increases myelination. Myelin is a fatty substance which protects neurons and helps them move with ease. The more fluent your neurons move, the quicker your brain signals are conducted. This leads to better learning experiences.

Whether you practice violin, guitar or the didgeridoo, there’s there are several ways that performing music helps to keep your brain active. Examples include increasing blood flow to the brain. This is great for energy. It’s also been proven that musicians have better motor control skills.

Playing an instrument requires both sides of the brain to be active at the same time, giving it a great workout. In this sense, performing music can be an excellent warm-up for academic learning.

Exercise

The adult brain can actually grow new brain cells each day. This process is called neurogenesis. Physical activity helps to trigger neurogenesis, thus creating plasticity.

Aerobic exercise can fix damaged brain cells. It can also double the amount of brain cells in the hippocampus. Aerobic exercises include:

  • Swimming
  • Running
  • Boxing
  • Cycling
  • Rowing
  • Dancing
  • Kickboxing
  • Circuit training
  • Inline skating.

Meditation

There are several reasons why meditation helps plasticity and the brain in general. Just some of the benefits include:

  • Boosting creativity
  • Boosting memory
  • Greater mental health
  • Stress reduction
  • Better sleep

According to meditation specialists ‘Equisync,’ ‘Meditation is the neuroscientific community’s most proven way to upgrade the human brain’.

Meditation changes the brain’s structure and function. People who practice meditation have stronger neural connections between the different areas of the brain.


Final Word

Learning may be a slightly more complex process for those over the age of 25, but it’s not impossible.The magic of plasticity reshapes your brain pathways and eases the learning process. Follow our tips and you’ll be a plasticity paladin in no time!

Another thing that also eases the learning journey is engagement. Find out more about learner engagement with our FREE Engagement Engine Workbook!

Like this blog? This is part of a neuroscience collection. Check out our other recent neuroscience blogs here:

Three Ways To Improve Your Hippocampus

Two Easy Ways To Boost Your Cognitive Skills

Want to Learn Better? Then Get Some Sleep!

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