I often hear adults tell me “I can’t learn like I used to” or “I’m too old to take more courses.” As a practitioner of learning, I tend to get frustrated with these types of comments. Why shouldn’t adults learn? Do we flick a switch at age 25 that stops the information flow to our brains? Of course not! So what gives?
Brain plasticity is about the brain’s ability to change in response to activity or inactivity. We’ve all heard the old saying “use it or lose it.” The idea is the same with brain plasticity. The more you use the neural pathways in your brain, the more solidified these pathways become. Think of it in terms of a path through a forest. The more that people walk along the path, the easier the path is to see. If people walk along the path less and less, it starts to become overgrown and difficult to use.
So, what are the implications of this to adult learning? Simple – the more you use your brain, the more you increase its plasticity and ability to retain new information. And even though plasticity decreases with age, by continuing “brain training,” you can maintain and even improve your plasticity.
Here are some simple ideas for promoting “brain fitness:”
- Brain teasers and puzzles – these are fun and low maintenance ways to keep the brain working (you can find some good ones here)
- Explore and travel – adapting to new locations puts your brain to good use
- Try using your other hand – practicing activities, such as brushing your teeth, with your non-dominant hand makes your brain work a little harder
- Get some sleep! – getting enough rest is critical to brain function
- Attend training – of course! Exposing your brain to new information and learning activities on a regular basis increases brain activity and strengthens neural pathways
If you have any other ideas for a great “brain workout,” post a comment below! Take care, and happy brain training.