• Dr. V.S. Gayathri

What Happens To Our Brain When We Start Learning?

Updated: Jul 1

Learning is a lifelong process. And, the human brain plays a pivotal role in how we learn. Along with the biological functions, the purpose of the brain is to learn and act based upon what we have learned. This process occurs naturally throughout the day, and every day. The brain repeats activities making them easier to complete, and what we learn and do changes the structure of the brain. Recent data have shown that the human brain changes throughout our life—it forms connections with new cells, while some cells stop communicating with others.


The brain’s information storage capacity is around 1 quadrillion bytes. 1 quadrillion is like 1 followed by 15 zeroes. So, the storage is never an issue with the brain. Rather, the flow of information in and out of the memory is where the problem arises at times.


Let us understand briefly how the brain learns and functions to process that information.


The fundamental building blocks of the brain are called neuron, and there are about 86 billion such neurons in every individual.

  • The connecting points between neurons, called synapses, is where learning occurs. Yet the synapses alone store recollections of only the most elementary reflexes.


  • Learning and memory require the coupling of information from many different brain regions. This activity alters the physical structure of myelin, the insulating material surrounding the wiring that connects neurons.


  • Myelin plays a key role in learning by adjusting the speed of information transmission through neural networks.


For more effective learning, it is important to spread the action over many days like repeating the task again and again. This will allow neurons to steadily strengthen. New information allows memories to be associated with the task. When memory neurons are active, they can form new connections and strengthen the existing ones. With the passing of time, a level of comprehension is reached when you get it instantly.


When students start to actively focus on learning, they start the process of making connections with the neurons. These connections start forming when they are sitting in the class, listening to the lectures, or reading at home or trying to solve something. As students, they do this process more often and hence encourage more connections to be made. As students are learning more and more, neurons keep linking and strengthening. This process is referred to as ‘learn it, link it’.



When You Don’t Learn New Things?


A British research study showed that being bored (when you don’t learn new things very often) can be dangerous to your health. It was seen that the people who reported being bored over a long period of time had heart disease rates more than twice as high as those who did not report boredom.


So, it is evident that not having new experiences and learning new things will slow your brain down and make it less responsive. Hence, we should keep learning at our own pace from time to time.



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