conscious neuroplasticity.

During school, we didn’t have to be consciously aware of our learning. We didn’t go to school while actively thinking “Today I’m going to learn more about quadratic equations, cell biology, and how to write an essay.”. Learning just happened. Even if we didn’t feel like it.

This is because the young brain is a learning and plasticity machine. The necessary chemicals and neuromodulators are already there in our brain. Ready to go. Ready to support change and learning.

The young brain has to change and has to learn. It is perfectly supported to do so.

This stage in our lives, in which the perfect mix of chemicals and neurotransmitters is ready to support our learning, is called developmental neuroplasticity. The young brain is in a neuroplastic environment that supports our brain’s development.

But this changes over time. We — our brains — are not always in this perfect environment. Developmental plasticity fades away over time. Recent studies suggest that developmental plasticity tapers off around 25 years.

Does this mean we can’t change and learn after the age of 25?

This would be really sad. Luckily, we can still change and learn. Even after 25. But we have to be more intentional about learning.

learning intentionally

Learning will not happen passively as it did before. The necessary chemicals and neuromodulators are not just present anymore. We have to engage in certain actions and be intentional about our learning so that the necessary neuromodulators can be released and can support our learning. Our learning has to be conscious. We have to tap into conscious neuroplasticity.

Just passively consuming content, just taking some notes, just doing some exercises will not work anymore. We have to learn actively.

Clearly define what you are learning or what you want to learn.

Have reasons for why you want to learn this specific skill.

Get into a desired state of alertness. Drink coffee, move or exercise if you feel too sleepy. Breathe, meditate or do something that calms you down if you feel anxious.

Skim materials before consuming them in detail and write down questions or some quick notes to improve your focus and awareness.

Focus, concentrate and pay attention to what you want to learn. Your attention will drift. But bring it back gently.

Take time to understand.

Don’t give up or stop learning once you make errors or feel frustrated. Be a persevering learner.

Play and practice with new skills.

Learn step by step. Make incremental learning a habit.

Take time to rest. The actual changes and learning happen when you rest. The active part of learning — the focus, thinking, doing — only highlights what should change. It tells the brain what is important and how important change is.

Let’s engage in conscious neuroplasticity by being intentional in our learning.

This article is part of my recent learning module in which I want to learn more about the connection between learning and neuroscience. As a basis for this learning area, I’m using the Huberman Podcast to get a rough overview. Check out the Huberman Podcast if you want to learn more.

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