Inside grey cells! How adult brains learn new without forgetting the old
The structural changes that are carried out in these areas of the brain can help us learn new things
It’s hard to learn new things and hard to remember what has already been learned. A learning system has to be flexible and stable in order to allow it to learn new things while preserving old ones. Ideally, it should be able to keep track of all the important lessons learned over time.
The learning process is carried out through changes in the way the brain connects its nerve cells. Each nerve cell has a connection between its ends, and these gaps are referred to as synapses. They are the places where messages are sent by the brain’s neurotransmitters. It’s believed that there are around 600 trillion synapses in the human brain.
The structural changes that are carried out in these areas of the brain can help us learn new things. It’s also believed that it’s easier to re-learn old lessons than it is to learn new ones.
According to researchers at the Max Planck Institute, certain cell contacts that were established during the course of a learning process can still stay put even when they no longer need to be activated. This allows the brain to quickly learn new things.
The human brain is capable of learning complex sequences and associations of movement. This is very helpful in avoiding certain types of accidents, such as walking into glass doors. It also allows us to improve our skills in various other activities.
Despite the abilities of young brains to learn, older ones retain their ability to learn more effectively. For a long time now, scientists have been studying how the brain works while it’s learning.
The goal of the learning process is to create new connections between nerve cells. When faced with an overwhelming amount of information, which has no processing pathway yet, the nerve cells’ filigree structures start to grow.
The formation of a new contact, known as a synapse, at the end of an organelle, allows the brain to transfer information to the next nerve cell. When the contact stops working, we forget what has been learned.
The subtle difference between learning and relearning
Despite the growing body of evidence linking learning and memory to the changes in the brain’s structure, many questions remain unanswered. For instance, what happens when the brain eventually forgets a certain lesson?
Relearning, in some cases, is easier than starting from scratch. The subtle difference between learning and relearning might have something to do with the structure of nerve cells.