Just like our body ages as we grow our brain too changes and ages too. As we touch the milestones from infancy we learn newer things and make memories too. Our brain and nervous system are made of cells known as neurons. The aging process of our brain begins in our late twenties. The brain begins to lose neurons and by the time we cross sixty, our brain begins to shrink. Here are the different stages of our brain aging:
Birth to Toddler (0-3 years old)
The brain begins to form 3 weeks after conception.
We are born with reflexes and survival skills which are undeveloped. There are about 100 billion neurons in a baby’s brain.
There are trillions more synapses neurons produced before birth. Synapses are the connections between the brain cells. The brain goes through tremendous changes in the beginning years of our life.
There are 2,500 synapses for every neuron at birth which increases to 15,000 by the time we are three. As a part of the brain development process, all the synapses that are not used or hardly used are removed.
The brain is already 80% developed by the time we are two.
Early Childhood to Middle Childhood
Children have more synapses than the adults. Every experience gained in this period becomes a part of life.
Brain development is rapid and directed by processes of myelination and synaptogenesis. The formation of a protective coat over the nerves present in the brain is termed as myelination. This layer of protection helps in fast transmission of brain signals. Synaptogenesis is the process of creation of synapses.
Children are quite efficient during this phase of their lives and besides reading and writing they have the ability to learn new things in no time such as catching a ball, dancing, singing, riding a bicycle, skating etc.
The brain is now developed and can make decisions, plan, understand and take risks. This is the time when the brain is at their best performance.
20’s to Early 30’s
Spatial abilities, reasoning skills and the speed at which the brain could think earlier begin to decline gradually. The myelin sheath which protects the nerve fibers loses their quality, the cortex becomes thin and the brain receptors don’t work as swiftly as they did.
The number of neurons decreases and our memory begins to fade. You will take longer to recall things and memorizing will be tougher.
40’s and 50’s
The reasoning skills become extremely slow. The sharp memory that we once had in childhood weakens and even the verbal fluency is affected. However, emotionally people get stronger, decision-making is sharpened and understanding social situations improve. There is more positivity in the brain because of the experience gained from life.
The brain becomes extremely knowledgeable but shrinks in size. The process of accessing new knowledge and adding to the brain is not as efficient in this age. The biggest risk at the age of 65 is to get Alzheimer’s and when they do the brain tissues diminish faster than it would normally do.
70’s and 80’s
Alzheimer’s worsens at this stage. The researchers say this is because deposits clog the hippocampus which is an essential part of the brain where memories are formed and stored. The deposits also cause problems with long-term memory. The fast aging of the brain and conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s is usually caused because of lifestyle or are hereditary.