Why does our ability to learn decrease as we age?

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When I was younger, I used to pick skills up fast, but now I struggle to learn anything new. Why is that?

Also, how can I improve my learning skills?

In: Biology

3 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

When we are young our brains are geared towards forming heaps of new connections quickly. It’s called neuroplasticity. Evolutionarily it would help babies and youths to adapt quickly to their environment without a lot of time and energy.
The years until 18 or 21 your brain just creates connections all over the shop so learning is quick.

As we age our brains become less plastic and focus more on pruning off any useless connections, which results in taking more time to learn new things. That’s not to say they don’t still form new connections, they do, it’s just not at the extremely accelerated rate of kids.
I think it has to do with efficiency of staying alive.

Brains take up a lot of energy so I guess from an evolutionary standpoint if you made it to 18ish years old you probably know what you need to know to survive so your body can stop wasting energy on learning new stuff and start trying to conserve it a bit more!

(Disclaimer it’s been a long time since I studied this stuff and my brain has pruned a lot of it)

Anonymous 0 Comments

We have to learn a lot of vital skills when we’re younger, essential life skills, at a time when there’s no room for error. The brain is still forming as well. The best time for a child to learn a second language , for instance, is while they’re learning their first language, because that’s when the brain is meant to learn language. It’s still growing and is highly adaptable in the early stages.

This is why it’s possible to remove half of the brain and have the other half restructure itself to compensate. It’s essentially a very advanced computer with storage space and it’s own AI. But there’s only so much storage space and at a certain point, the software stops getting new updates. The AI doesn’t learn as quickly because it doesn’t “need” to, it has pre-established patterns.

That’s what it comes down to. Learning patterns. Once the brain finishes development, it kind of “saves” the design that it has and, while you can obviously still learn new things, it won’t be as easy because development has finished and you don’t have that extra boost that comes with a growing brain that is trying to learn everything it can in the effort to reach full maturity.

Anonymous 0 Comments

There are some good answers here, maybe, but I’m not sure I’m convinced that this is just 100% true biological fact that your ability to learn decreases with age necessarily. I mean some people certainly spend less of their time learning new things given they don’t spend 6+h in school a day anymore, especially if they get out of school and their job doesn’t require constant learning of new things and you’ll naturally be worse at learning if you do something 2h a week instead of 6h a day

Hell I feel like if I had to do school again I’d get straight As with little effort as I am way better at least applying myself than I ever was at 18 and probably just as good at ‘learning’

Maybe learning languages I’d be worse at due to neuroplasticity but not sure neuroplasticity is just straight up correlated to better learning for everything, being old means all your learning is based on all the previous knowledge, you don’t keep learning basic math concepts you move to more and more advanced things