It turns out old brains can learn new tricks. And since my New Year’s resolution of getting unstuck means learning, growing and being willing to look at the world a little differently, Oliver Sacks’ article, “This Year, Change Your Mind” in The New York Times (12/31/10, ) whispered just the right sweet nothing in my ear: Neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is the ability of brains, even at older ages, to continue growing as a result of new experiences by creating new neural connections and pathways. Neuroplasticity is what allows my father, who had a rare form of stroke a few years ago, to not only be walking, but to be hiking hills as if he were half his age.
Neuroplasticity also means that while it may be a little more difficult as we get older to learn new skills, we are very capable of it — in fact, it may even help keep us young. As Sacks wrote:
“Whether it is by learning a new language, traveling to a new place, developing a passion for beekeeping or simply thinking about an old problem in a new way, all of us can find ways to stimulate our brains to grow, in the coming year and those to follow. Just as physical activity is essential to maintaining a healthy body, challenging one’s brain, keeping it active, engaged, flexible and playful, is not only fun. It is essential to cognitive fitness.”
Read the article for yourself here: http://nyti.ms/dIabmM