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The Truth of Our Master Mind
By | May 15th, 2022 | Newsletter

May 2022 Newsletter

Dear members,

For a very long time, scientists did not believe it was possible for the brain to change throughout life. The overall assumption was that the brain would develop up until a certain point, from which its connections would become fixed and then eventually start to fade. However, this assessment has been entirely revised in the last fifty years thanks to a series of non-invasive technologies which have made it possible to study how the brain architecture and its functions change during the entire lifespan.

It is explained by the concept of neuroplasticity. In neuroscience, “plastic” refers to the capacity that materials have to change and be molded into different shapes. The brain has an extraordinary ability to functionally and physically change or reconfigure its structure in response to following physiological and environmental stimuli, cognitive demand, or behavioral experience. This is what makes human beings so special: we have a long period of neuroplasticity. Although it generally decreases as we grow older, the brain and the nervous system are changing from the time we are born until we die.

What is required for the changes differs depending on our age. Until approximately age 25, brain is not formed yet and creates maps mainly from experience. During the years of infancy, teenage and young adulthood, what we see, what we do, what we feel shape us. These are passive but highly intensive years of learning. The changes are particularly rapid and crucial in the first six years of life. For instance, a second language acquired at that early age will be stored in the same part of the brain as the native language, resulting in more fluency than if learnt later on in life. Interestingly, new studies show that the more foreign languages we learn, the faster the brain responds and processes the data it absorbs during learning. In other words, it suggests that loading the mind with more knowledge boosts its ability to acquire more. Similarly, experience-dependent conditions such as the physical activity seem to have a prominent role in brain architecture at a very young age. The acquisition of motor skills, and therefore of motor learning – a fundamental aspect of animal and human life – is conditioned by the ability of the nervous system to change structurally and functionally. Scientific studies highlight the effect of motor learning on the anatomical functional modification of the brain, underlining how sport activities are fundamental to favor the phenomena of neuronal flexibility.

At age 25 something fundamental happens. There is a new set of requirements to make changes in the brain. From the state of passivity in the early years, changes in the neuroplasticity require a higher state of alertness and focus in order to send signals to the nervous system that it needs to change. Therefore, what is happening when we grow older is not just experience. Changes in the brain are then more sensitive to the conditions of learning. Adults need to engage the mind to change the brain, and research shows itis most appropriate when we are alert, focused and rested. Indeed, for adults the actual rewiring of neuro-connection occurs not so much during the process of learning itself but in certain states of minds connected to the learning process. Rest, deep sleep and certain forms of meditation accelerate the change in the brain.


I mentioned earlier on learning of a second language. Since an adult’s brain is not as plastic as an infant’s, learning another language at an older age is more challenging. However, the cognitive benefits associated with brain changes due to learning have been observed in sequential bilinguals (people who learn their second language later on in life) as well. At all ages we can undo some forms of plasticity and create new forms. As a result, someone who did not have the most beneficial environment for learning at a young age can later on rebuild networks of neurons. Older people can develop new skills and talents despite the limits of their age, although it may take more time, patience and practice than in younger minds.

Until recently, it was also believed that there was no way to repair the brain after it suffered injury. Recent studies in neuroplasticity proved the exact opposite. It is possible to obtain alterations that can be useful for recovering the functionality of areas compromised by a traumatic event (such as the loss of a limb, a stroke or blindness).

All in all, the case for neuroplasticity in adults is strong even if it is not easily as observable or repeatable as it was at a younger age. The concept of neuroplasticity shows that, up to a certain extent, we are able to control the transformation of our brain. The problem is that with time we may hesitate to get out of our comfort zone and we may stop learning new topics. Given the research, there is no denying that learning, whatever subject we choose, has profound positive effects on us. We should never hesitate to try something new or change old habits. The brain can easily accommodate if we practice enough under the right conditions.


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