As you move through life, your brain is always changing. New experiences and knowledge cause these changes. Neurons make new connections and neural pathways expand. Your body creates brand-new neurons, while others die. Injuries such as concussion, head trauma and stroke can also affect the brain. In The Changing Brain activity, the user can see the physical changes the brain undergoes as it ages. Twelve colorized brain scans showing a horizontal slice through the middle of the brain are shown. These images were taken from the brains of twelve different people, at different ages from four months old through eighty five years old. You will hear a description of each brain scan image within the activity. The brain scans are arranged in three age groups in ascending order. The first is ages zero through twenty, the second is ages twenty through sixty and the third is ages sixty through ninety. These age groupings were identified because there are developmental patterns and milestones reached within each. You will hear a description of each age group within the activity and in the Science Behind It section.

The Changing Brain: Ages 0 to 20

The brain grows and changes most rapidly when you are young. In your earliest years, you learn everything for the first time, linking millions of neurons as you do. Most of the action takes place in “gray matter,” tan-colored tissue containing neurons. Even as you enter your teens, you develop new ways of thinking, feeling, and exercising self-control. The areas responsible for these tasks—the frontal lobes and hippocampus—grow as a result.

Infant brain MRI image courtesy of Rebecca Saxe and Ben Deen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Other MRI images courtesy of Nick Tustison, University of Virginia, and Brian Avants, John Detre, Jeff Duda, James Gee, John Pluta & Jue Wu, Penn Image Computing and Science Laboratory and Center for Functional Neuroimaging, University of Pennsylvania

The Changing Brain: Ages 20 to 60

Your brain reaches its maximum size when you are 15. Even though it is fully developed, it continues to evolve. White matter grows as neural connections strengthen. While the number of brain cells decreases, the remaining cells grow in size and complexity. Your neurons form new pathways in response to new information and experiences. The complexity of these connections may be what determines intelligence. Scientists do know that brain size does not reflect intellect. Men typically have larger brains than women, but they score about the same on intelligence tests.

MRI images courtesy of Nick Tustison, University of Virginia, and Brian Avants, John Detre, Jeff Duda, James Gee, John Pluta & Jue Wu, Penn Image Computing and Science Laboratory and Center for Functional Neuroimaging, University of Pennsylvania

The Changing Brain: Ages 60 to 90

The brain begins to shrink as you age, but some neural networks become more finely tuned. So even as you encounter memory loss, you gain increased patience, wisdom, and sense of responsibility. Older brains also hold onto white matter longer than gray matter, maintaining the efficiency of brain communication. White matter (actually pink colored) contains glial cells and myelinated (insulated) nerve fibers.

MRI images courtesy of Nick Tustison, University of Virginia, and Brian Avants, John Detre, Jeff Duda, James Gee, John Pluta & Jue Wu, Penn Image Computing and Science Laboratory and Center for Functional Neuroimaging, University of Pennsylvania
Your Brain Is Under Construction

Your brain is always changing as you move through life. New experiences and knowledge cause these changes. Neurons make new connections and neural pathways expand. Your body creates brand-new neurons, while others die.

Specialized brain regions can take on the new tasks. An injury or illness may disable part of the brain, so other parts compensate. For example, when a stroke damages the visual cortex, other areas of the brain may take over and allow for some recovery of sight. Head injuries force the brain to go into repair mode, affecting development. Even a mild concussion can have a long-term effect.

The Changing Brain: Ages 0 to 20

The brain grows and changes most rapidly when you are young. In your earliest years, you learn everything for the first time, linking millions of neurons as you do. Most of the action takes place in “gray matter,” tan-colored tissue containing neurons. Even as you enter your teens, you develop new ways of thinking, feeling, and exercising self-control. The areas responsible for these tasks—the frontal lobes and hippocampus—grow as a result.

The Changing Brain: Ages 20 to 60

Your brain reaches its maximum size when you are 15. Even though it is fully developed, it continues to evolve. White matter grows as neural connections strengthen. While the number of brain cells decreases, the remaining cells grow in size and complexity. Your neurons form new pathways in response to new information and experiences. The complexity of these connections may be what determines intelligence. Scientists do know that brain size does not reflect intellect. Men typically have larger brains than women, but they score about the same on intelligence tests.

The Changing Brain: Ages 60 to 90

The brain begins to shrink as you age, but some neural networks become more finely tuned. So even as you encounter memory loss, you gain increased patience, wisdom, and sense of responsibility. Older brains also hold onto white matter longer than gray matter, maintaining the efficiency of brain communication. White matter (actually pink colored) contains glial cells and myelinated (insulated) nerve fibers.

Did you know your brain changes throughout your life?

View images of the human brain at various ages and see the differences.

You can use the arrows by each image to move younger or older, or skip to a different age group by double clicking the corresponding button below the image.

Did you know your brain changes throughout your life?

View images of the human brain at various ages and see the differences.

Use the arrows by each image to move younger or older, or skip to a different age group by tapping the corresponding button below the image.

To make a brain image larger on your screen, double tap it to view expanded image.