Building a Flexible Brain

And it is a good thing that we aren’t born with all those connections already in place. Each of us needs to build our own brain, with the specific skills and abilities that we will use throughout our lives. We each need to learn to speak our own native language, to build unique skills from playing basketball to creating music. 

Every time we learn something new, we strengthen, shape, or form new connections between neurons in our brain. Our brains can make changes to the connections between neurons throughout our lives. Some synapses are strengthened, while unused connections sometimes become smaller or are removed. This way, our brains constantly adapt – they are flexible in our ever-changing environment.

The more you use a certain set of connections in your brain, the stronger it gets. For example, the more you practice speaking a second language, the easier it gets. In your brain, new networks of connections are constantly forming and growing stronger.

  • Axon
    output fiber of a neuron
    Cell body
    the neuron's processing center
    input fibers of a neuron
    Magnetoencephalography (MEG)
    a non-invasive brain imaging technique used to determine which regions of the brain are active
    cells located in the brain and throughout the body that are specialized to communicate messages
    the process of removing excess synapses
    Sensitive period
    a time in development when the brain is especially ready to learn a skill
    connection point between neurons