When we challenge the brain to master a novel concept or skill, it creates new synaptic connections, resulting in a stronger, more resilient brain. The ability of the brain to change in this way is called neuroplasticity.
Early childhood is a time of accelerated learning and neurological development. As infants and toddlers, brain development happens exponentially: We form more than a million new neural connections every second. By age six, the brain is almost fully grown – it reaches about 90% of its adult volume. In our 30s and 40s, the brain starts to shrink. The rate of shrinking speeds up around age 60, which is when normal cognitive decline associated with aging can kick in.