What Happens To Your Brain When You Learn Something New

Author: judyjudy

What Happens To Your Brain When You Learn Something New

Learning Wellness

In the quest for maintaining cognitive vitality and overall brain health, the adage “use it or lose it” holds profound significance. Research increasingly suggests that engaging in novel activities and embracing new experiences can have significant benefits for the brain, stimulating neural pathways, fostering cognitive flexibility, and promoting overall well-being. As we navigate the complexities of aging, the importance of stepping outside our comfort zones and trying something new becomes increasingly apparent.

William T. Hu, MD, a neurologist and associate professor at Rutgers University, emphasizes the importance of lifelong learning in maintaining cognitive function as we age. He explains that as we grow older, the brain tends to become “lazy,” relying on established patterns and routines. However, engaging in novel tasks can stimulate the production of dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, thereby enhancing cognitive reserve and promoting brain health.

According to a review published in the journal Neuroscience and Behavioral Reviews, novelty plays a crucial role in activating less-used areas of the brain and facilitating the formation of new neural connections. By challenging the brain with unfamiliar tasks and experiences, individuals can promote neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to reorganize and adapt in response to new stimuli—which is essential for maintaining cognitive function and resilience.

Argyle Elizabeth Hillis, MD, director of the cerebrovascular division at Johns Hopkins Medicine, underscores the importance of novelty in maintaining brain health. She explains that while familiar tasks may rely on well-established neural networks, engaging in new activities can activate different regions of the brain, leading to enhanced cognitive engagement and stimulation.

But where can individuals find inspiration for trying something new and novel? Fortunately, there is a wealth of resources available to spark curiosity and exploration:

Coursera: Coursera offers a vast array of online courses covering diverse topics, from art and literature to science and technology. Exploring new subjects through online learning can provide a stimulating intellectual challenge and promote cognitive growth.

Meetup: Meetup is a platform that connects people with shared interests, allowing them to join groups and participate in various activities and events. Whether it’s hiking, painting, or learning a new language, Meetup offers opportunities for social connection and exploration.

Duolingo: Duolingo is a popular language-learning app that makes learning a new language fun and engaging. With its gamified approach to language acquisition, Duolingo encourages users to challenge themselves and expand their linguistic abilities.

Headspace: Headspace is a mindfulness and meditation app that offers guided meditation sessions and mindfulness exercises. Incorporating mindfulness practices into daily routines can promote mental clarity, reduce stress, and enhance overall well-being.

Peak: Peak is a brain training app designed to challenge cognitive skills such as memory, attention, and problem-solving. By engaging in daily brain exercises, users can sharpen their mental acuity and maintain cognitive function.

As we embrace the journey of lifelong learning and exploration, let us seize the opportunity to try something new each day, whether it’s picking up a new hobby, learning a new skill, or exploring a new destination. How has trying something new benefited your brain health and overall well-being? Share your experiences and insights in our forum, and let’s inspire each other to embrace novelty and curiosity as essential ingredients for a fulfilling and vibrant life.