Brain and Behavior
How does the brain change across the life span of an individual?
Experience continues to shape the brain throughout the life span, though the changes tend to be more finely tuned later in life than in childhood and infancy. Nonetheless, the more you perform an action, think a thought, or feel a feeling, the more those circuits are reinforced. Circuits that are not reinforced fall off. As such, the “use it or lose it” adage holds across the lifespan. Of course, core circuitry that is laid down in childhood is conservative and difficult to change. That is why early learning and early emotional experience have such a profound effect on adult functioning.
How does the brain age?
An unfortunate aspect of aging involves the gradual degeneration of most organs. The brain is no exception. There is an overall decrease in the speed, flexibility and efficiency of neuronal networks. There is atrophy and shrinking of many parts of the brain. However, the news is not all grim. Much can be done to preserve brain health in aging.