How the Brain Ages
Everyone knows that from the time they are born their body begins to age, but did you know that the brain ages too? The brain starts developing within the womb, and from the time a baby is born the brain will grow and develop as the child is stimulated.
So how does the brain age?
Around 60% of a personâ€™s genes will contribute to the development of his or her brain. The brain begins to form around three to four weeks
after conception and starts life as a number of cells that have folded and fused to form a liquid-filled tube. It is at this stage that neurons are formed. Billions of these neurons will be created at this point, making up the brainâ€™s lifetime supply with more than necessary being produced.
infant & toddler
With around 100 billion neurons in place by the time the baby is born, the brain is continuously developing. Most of these neurons will be in the right place, but connections need to be formed and cells need to be activated. This is achieved through learning, voluntary movement, perception, attachment, and memory.
A newborn can respond to touch, can hear, can smell and can see but, as the infant grows and the neurons begin to connect to one another, the baby starts to use these senses in a more developed way. Every single neuron has the ability to connect to thousands of other neurons, and repeated experiences will cause each pathway or connection to become permanently imprinted on the brain. By the age of eight months, a baby should have around 500 trillion connections; by the age of two, 1,000 trillion connections should be made.
young child to early adult
At the age of six, the childâ€™s brain should already be at 95% of its adult weight. Certain connections will have become permanent, but those that are not as strong will be lost. For example, a child may never forget how to ride a bike because he or she has repeated this process repeatedly until it has become etched on the brain. Yet a child that was taught how to make a cake once will forget how it was done unless he or she makes this same cake a few times.
By the time a person has reached the age of eighteen, he or she will have the same number of neural connections as they did when they were eight months old. Although the connections have dropped, they are much stronger. Certain regions of the brain, such as the frontal lobe, have completed their development and the brain of twenty-something-year-old is at peak performance level.
late twenties to sixties
By the time a person reaches his or her late twenties, the brain is beginning to decline in terms of performance. The brain changes as one ages and thinking starts to slow down. By the mid-thirties, an individual may notice that his or her memory is not as good as it used to be; this is because the number of neurons is now decreasing. The person could find that it takes longer to learn new things.
Reasoning skills slow down between the mid-forties and early fifties and by the time one reaches his or her sixties, the size of the brain has started to shrink. It becomes less efficient when it comes to accessing the information and knowledge it has gathered over the years.
As a person ages, the ability to process memories diminishes due to lost brain cells from the hippocampus. The risk of Alzheimerâ€™s Disease increases as a person ages with some experts believing that this is due to inflammation of the brain, which is a natural ageing process caused by a build-up of deposits in certain areas of the organ. Another side-effect of an ageing brain is the loss of full-control of the body or the speed at which the process is carried out â€“ there is where stairlifts and mobility scooters come in.
keeping the brain healthy
It is natural for the brain to age and decline as a person ages, but some things can be done to keep it healthy. Staying fit and active will help, as will a healthy diet. Mental stimulation will keep the brain active and will reduce the risk of age-related diseases such as dementia.