Phil Dobson, author of The Brain Book and Founder of BrainWorkshops, a leading consultancy in the field of brain-based training says learning new things keeps your brain young. Here’s an extract from his book explaining how.
Life’s Learning Curve
Consider life’s learning curve. When you were born, your brain cells were largely unconnected. Over the first two years of your life, they started to connect rapidly as you adapted to novel motor and sensory information. Over this time you formed as many as two million new synapses (connections) every second, until you had about 1,000 trillion of them.
By your second birthday, your brain had tripled in size and actually had more synapses than you do now. Then you began a process of synaptic ‘pruning’: some connections were removed in order to strengthen others. In your teens, your brain underwent a second period of rapid growth and neutral reorganisation. It wasn’t until your mid-twenties that your brain was fully developed.
Use It Or Lose It
It’s now up to you. Your brain was very adaptable when you were young, but to keep it this way, you need to continue to learn things. Your brain now operates on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis. The degree to which your brain continues to develop, or wither away, is largely based on how much you train it like a muscle.
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young,” asserted Henry Ford, the US industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company. There is a neurological truth in this. If you continue to learn and challenge your brain, it strengthens, grows, and remains younger for longer.
Keep Your Brain Young
Here are few ways you can keep the brain young:
- Learn a language
- Learn to play a musical instrument
- Learn to juggle
- Practise memory techniques
- Practise meditation
- Learn new skills or develop the skills you already have
- Learn new academic subjects
- Read broadly
- Play games
- Explore and travel more widely
- Challenge your routines and make unconscious behaviours
- Keep socially active
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