The NSTEP Blog

Stay Curious and Challenge your Mind

Written by: Terese

Greetings NSTEPpers!

How do you like to challenge your brain?

Even as we age, the neurons in our brain stay very flexible. Our neurons crave challenges and want to make as many new connections as possible.

So how does this work? Here’s a brief bit of neuroscience for you: both ends of neurons have a whole bunch of little arm-like projections. Neurons ‘talk’ to each other by making connections through these extensions. The more a certain neural pathway is used, the stronger the connection is between the neurons in that pathway and more pathways are recruited. How many connections can one neuron make? Tens of thousands!

So, now that we have a better understanding of neurons, we can talk about how this looks in our day-to-day lives.

When we challenge our brains, they have to forge a new pathway of learning. How can we do this? Here are some examples:

It’s important to remember that our brains do not lose the capacity to learn as we age. But if we don’t use a brain pathway for a while, it’ll start to weaken. Our brains stay plastic and moldable all through our later years. Being curious is a good thing! Not only does it increase your knowledge base, but it has a physical effect on your brain. It’s never too late to pick up a new skill!

Here’s some motivation:

Canadian Olga Kotelko picked up track and field at age 77. Not only does she have upwards of 750 gold medals, but also has her name beside 30 world records. A physiologist from McGill University believes that when Olga was 93, her brain was functioning like a 70 year old. Scientists noted that the pathways in Olga’s brain were very strong and efficient, linking it to her physical activity and challenging her brain.

Inspired? We sure are!

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