Most people think children develop basic skills, or milestones, by the time they enter grade school. But the brain continues to develop -- well into a person’s twenties -- as it grows new connections, prunes back what it doesn’t need, and develops increasingly complex associations between what is known and what is new. Scientists don’t think it stops there. Even as adults, our brains continue to develop new connections.
“Plasticity” is the concept that the brain can change, grow new connections and repair broken ones, even in older adults. This is why older adults can often solve a puzzle or see a sequence faster than a young person. All that life-long learning and experience keeps our brains working, developing and learning.
This is good news! Research shows that people who have had a stroke or a traumatic brain injury can continue to improve for years after the initial event. Even people with mild cognitive impairment may improve over time. Cognitive rehabilitation, or retraining -- including learning ways to compensate for losses as well as developing new neural connections in the brain through specifically designed activities — has been shown to be effective in improving thinking, memory, decision-making and other brain functions.
Brain Health includes everyday habits and activities a person can adopt that keep a brain sharp and have a protective effect on brain function as a person ages. Brain health is for everybody -- no matter the age. Brain Fitness involves participating in activities that keep the brain healthy or improve thinking skills, like puzzles, exercises, computer programs to build memory and other functions.