Your Brain Is Always Changing

This process is called “brain plasticity”—as we experience the world, practice habits and learn new information, our brains change, grow new connections and repair broken ones. As we age, our experiences and knowledge keep our brains working, developing and learning. You may experience noticeable changes, but not all changes are a sign of concern. We all lose our keys and forget people’s names. We do it throughout our entire lives. It’s not until we’re older that these common mishaps cause us to worry. It’s also important to know there are several other reasons lapses in memory occur, like taking certain medications, lack of sleep and excessive alcohol.

Find out how your brain changes over the years:

How does my brain change
between
?
  1. An illustration of how the brain changes from birth to age with speech bubbles and shapes

    Birth to Age 10

    • Our brains reach 90% of their adult size by age 5 as cells become better at communicating with each other.
    • Language and spatial understanding regions of the brain grow dramatically between ages 5 and 10.
  2. An illustration of how the brain changes from age 10 to 30 with a filing cabinet and surrounding icons related to reasoning

    Age 10 to 30

    • Our brains reach maturity in our 20s, as the reasoning planning and impulse-control areas are fully formed.
    • Complex reasoning, long-term memory functions begin to peak, and creativity may be at its highest.
  3. An illustration of how the brain changes from age 30 to 40 with a brain and a measuring tape around it

    Age 30 to 40

    • Even though there are rarely any outward signs, brain volume begins to slightly decline as neurons (the brain cells) start to shrink. It’s a very slow and gradual process.
  4. An illustration of how the brain changes from age 40 to 50  of a head with geometric shapes around it

    Age 40 to 50

    • The first signs of gradual decline in brain volume begin to show: short-term memory may be less sharp.
    • Reactions to complex stimuli—things like challenging calculations or card games—may take a little longer.
  5. An illustration of how the brain changes from age 50 to 60  of a book with a dollar sign and paint brush on it

    Age 50 to 60

    • Conceptual understanding, language and vocabulary is still sharp.
    • The ability to understand how things work can remain strong, as can creativity and wisdom.
    • Multitasking may be a little harder than before and learning new things can take a bit longer, but both can still be successfully accomplished.
    • Financial literacy is still strong but may begin to decline after age 60.
    Tip
    Now is a good time to shore up your future with financial planning.
  6. An illustration of how the brain changes from age 60 to 70 of a head with gears surrounding it

    Age 60 to 70

    • Knowledge, experience, reasoning, creativity and problem solving can remain strong.
    • Changes in our 50s continue into our 60s.
    • Cognitive processing speed may take longer as some parts of the brain may be shrinking.
  7. An illustration of how the brain changes from age 70 and beyond of a brain with icons surrounding it

    70 and Beyond

    • Most individuals’ reasoning, creativity, language and procedural memories will remain sharp.
    • Cognitive health can begin to vary. Early signs of brain issues like Alzheimer's and dementia can occur.
    • For some, genetic predisposition, lifestyle and health issues will begin to show noticeable effects.