Neuroplasticity and The Human Brain
The average human adult human brain normally weighs from 2 1/4 to 3 1/4 lb (1-1.5 kg). Differences in weight and size do not correlate with differences in mental ability. Its average maximum weight is reached by age 15.
The brain has approximately 86 billion nerve cells that allow us to think, plan, talk, imagine, as well as control breathing, heart rate, and other autonomic processes that are independent of conscious brain functions. The brain monitors and regulates the body’s actions and reactions. It continuously receives sensory information, and rapidly analyzes this data and then responds, controlling bodily actions and functions.
Shaping the Brain
From the moment we are born, other human beings are the most significant element in our environment influencing our nervous system. Some of our social values, such as those from our families, we assimilate at a very early age and carry with us for the rest of our lives–most often, unconsciously.
At birth, almost all the neurons that the brain will ever have are present. However, the brain continues to grow for a few years after birth. By the age of 2 years old, the brain is about 80% of the adult size. When we are babies, our brains are more open to the shaping hand of experience than at any time in our lives. In response to the demands of the world, the baby’s brain sculpts itself. Scientists have begun to understand how this happens.
The Developing Brain
A child’s brain is a magnificent engine for learning. A child learns to crawl, then walk, run and explore. A child learns to reason, to pay attention, to remember, but nowhere is learning more dramatic than in the way a child learns language. Language is the hallmark of being human.
The teenage brain is strongly influenced by hormones, the prefrontal cortex, the center of reasoning and impulse control, is still a work in progress. For the first time, scientists can offer an explanation for what parents already know — adolescence can be a time of turbulent emotions, and poor judgment. Scientists suggest that if a teen is engaged in music, sport and academics that those connections will get hard-wired just as a teen that lies on the couch playing video games and MTV those are the cells and connections that will survive.
The Aging Brain
The latest discoveries in neuroscience present a new view of how the brain ages. Overturning decades of dogma, scientists recently discovered that even into our seventies, our brains continue producing new neurons. Scientists no longer hold the longstanding belief that we lose vast numbers of brain cells as we grow older.
The normal aging process leaves most mental functions intact, and may even provide the brain with unique advantages that form the basis for wisdom. The aging brain is also far more resilient than was previously believed.