While some areas of the brain are hard-wired from birth or early childhood, other areas — especially in the cerebral cortex, which is central to higher cognitive powers like language and thought, as well as sensory and motor functions — can be, to a remarkable extent, rewired as we grow older.He cites a number of examples of neuroplasticity (the ability of our brain to strengthen and create new neural connections) in adults, including this one:
I have had many reports from ordinary people who take up a new sport or a musical instrument in their 50s or 60s, and not only become quite proficient, but derive great joy from doing so. Eliza Bussey, a journalist in her mid-50s who now studies harp at the Peabody conservatory in Baltimore, could not read a note of music a few years ago. In a letter to me, she wrote about what it was like learning to play Handel’s “Passacaille”: “I have felt, for example, my brain and fingers trying to connect, to form new synapses. ... I know that my brain has dramatically changed.” Ms. Bussey is no doubt right: her brain has changed.From an academic standpoint, I think these findings suggest another direction in which we should rethink our present system of education, which emphasizes learning only for children and young-adults, and provides relatively fewer opportunities for life-long learning among adults in their thirties and beyond.
Anyway, I sure do look forward to continue changing my brain this year, and wish you many new neural connections too.