Lifelong learning isn’t simply a slogan

We can continue to acquire new skills well into adulthood and the cognitive regions of our brain—commonly known as gray matter—will increase in size to help make this possible. Lifelong learning isn’t simply a slogan. It’s an exciting reality. 

Moreover, the brain’s capacity to change isn’t limited to its gray matter, which occupies only about half the brain. Whereas gray matter handles our thinking, computing, decision making, and, most of all, our memory, white matter provides the brain’s essential connections. As white matter expands, the rate at which one neuron can communicate with another gets faster and faster. 

People who acquire a variety of new skills—everything from juggling to meditating to ballroom dancing—show an increase in white matter as they become steadily more proficient. In other words, the ease and speed with which the brain’s key regions communicate gets better and better.