Impact of Continuous Learning On The Brain In Relations To Seniors

According to Professor Zoe Kourtzi, an experimental psychologist, neurons in the brain start to make connections from the moment we are born. These connections combine the five senses with our memories and experiences. The neuronal interactions that are influenced by how we interact with the world impact the brain’s plasticity.

According to Kendra Cherry, Brain plasticity is the brains’ ability to restructure and adapt itself due to new experiences. Professor Zoe Kourtzi defines brain plasticity as the brains’ ability to restructure itself and learn new things. Plasticity, also known as neuroplasticity, normally occurs as a result of memory formation, experiences, and learning.

In other words, each time you learn and experience something new, the brain tends to change the structure of your neurons. According to Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel G. Amen, MD, by learning something new and practicing it, the number of synapses between your neurons increases significantly. This, in turn, allows your neurons to receive and transmit messages faster.

Simply put, ensuring brain plasticity through learning and engaging in new activities helps avoid a cognitive dip. Instead, it helps increase our processing abilities and promotes a better memory. This is especially crucial for older adults since neuroplasticity tends to change as we get older.

More often than not, older adults are often encouraged to keep their minds engaged in an effort to slow down cognitive regeneration. However, new findings as recorded in the journal of Psychological Science suggest otherwise. According to the findings recorded in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science, it is not enough to just engage the mind.

This is especially true if the activity the older adult is engaging in is within his/her comfort zone. If the activity is not new to the older adult, then he or she is not mentally challenging himself or herself. Recent research states that mentally demanding skills that are new and unfamiliar are what contribute to cognitive vitality even as we age.

A study led by psychological scientist and lead researcher Denise Park proves the above-stated facts to be true. By dividing individuals aged between 60 and 90, they were able to assign each group with a different task.

One group would engage in familiar tasks such as doing a puzzle or engaging with people. The other would learn a new skill over the three month study period, such as photography. Their findings proved that those engaged in learning new skills experienced an increase in memory ability.

Learning seems to have a significant impact on the brain’s plasticity, despite the age factor. According to Cardiologist, Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD, education is essential to slowing down the aging of the brain. Essentially, the more you know, the more you increase your brain’s capacity to learn.

Hence, when an older adult engages their mind through learning new skills, they stimulate the brain and protect it against mental aging. This, in turn, helps preserve an individual’s Cognitive reserve, which is when the mind resists damage due to different factors, including age.  

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