How can Neurons Change Over Time? A Closer Look at What Happens in the Ageing Human Brain.

by Dr Vishakha Mahajan, Research & Innovation Scientist, The cGP Lab.



Have you ever struggled to remember where you left your keys yet can vividly recall your childhood best friend’s name?

The answer lies within our neurons. These microscopic brain cells and their connections are key to understanding why our minds change over time. Unpacking the science behind the ageing brain empowers us to unlock lifelong learning, sharpen memory, and achieve peak brain health.  

This article will explore how our brain changes as we age and discuss proven techniques to stimulate neuron growth decade after decade. 

What are neurons?

Imagine an intricate web of cables carrying vital communication signals. Each cable represents a neuron, specialised nerve cells that transmit messages through electrical and chemical signals.

 The brain and nervous system contain billions of these neuron messengers, forming the complex infrastructure that allows us to move, think, feel, and store memories.

Zooming in further, picture the synapses - tiny junctions where two neurons meet to communicate. Synapses receive signals from one neuron and pass them to other neurons. The more neurons connect and stimulate each other through synapses, the stronger a memory or skill becomes.

How do neurons and neural pathways change over time?

Scientists once believed our brains were static, arguing that our neural networks were fixed from childhood.

Today, we understand the incredible flexibility of the brain. Our billions of neuron connections can strengthen, weaken, detach, and reunite based on our experiences, a process known as neuroplasticity. While some mild memory or focus issues can develop over decades, our brains remain far more malleable than once thought.

Cognitive Changes

The normal ageing process brings subtle changes in cognitive abilities. Recall of names and numbers often slows. Yet ingrained procedural memories - like riding a bike - remain relatively intact. Working memory tends to decline from our 30s onward, impacting processing speed and problem-solving. However, some cognitive functions improve into middle age. Studies suggest our 40s and 50s are a cognitive peak for verbal abilities, spatial reasoning, math performance and abstract reasoning - exceeding what we could do as young adults.

Structural changes

Advancing age slowly prunes our neural connections. Brain volume begins sliding in our 30s and 40s, quickening after 60. Cortical thinning occurs - the shrinking of the cerebral cortex, the wrinkled outer layer of the brain. Intriguingly, scientists propose a ‘last in, first out’ theory, with late-maturing areas of the brain deteriorating soonest.

Neuronal Changes

Ageing transforms individual neurons, and declining synaptic plasticity hampers learning and memory. Studies in rhesus monkeys ( link withering dendritic spines to worsening working memory - a loss mirroring our own cognitive lapses.

Chemical changes

Finally, chemical messengers like dopamine and serotonin decrease over time. Fewer dopamine receptors avail themselves for neurotransmission, while lowered serotonin is associated with mild impairment.

How often do neurons change?

Rewiring of the developing brain kicks into high gear during our early years. New neurons burst onto the scene, forged at lightning speed to absorb new information.

While neurogenesis - the birth of new neurons - primarily occurs in specific infant brain regions, neuronal flexibility persists into adulthood. Existing neurons strengthen synaptic bonds, encode new data into circuitry, and adapt to new environments.

Pruning unused connections enables healthy neural renewal as well. Just like updating software on a smartphone - outdated apps are deleted to optimise performance. This synaptic pruning liberates neurons to wire new skills and memories.

Blood vessels and brain health

Neurons rely on a robust network of blood vessels to nourish the brain with oxygen and nutrients. A struggling blood supply cannot provide the nutrients adult brains need. Effective communication between cells suffers, and waste removal systems cannot keep pace.

Neuroplasticity and vascular remodelling

As we age, the brain finds it more challenging to generate fresh blood vessels. Consequently, existing pathways degrade, neurons starve, and degeneration escalates.

The result? Conditions like dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

However, supporting healthy blood flow may help counteract this decline. Research shows improving vascular function enhances neuroplasticity - the foundation for learning and memory.


How to support your vascular health

The key is discovering how to support neural plasticity despite the ageing process. Let's uncover practical ways you can harness the lifelong flexibility of your neurons and circuits.

Observe a longevity diet

Embrace the rainbow

Incorporate colourful fruits and veggies brimming with antioxidants. These phytonutrient powerhouses combat inflammation and nourish vulnerable neurons. Enjoy berries, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, capsicums, and more. 

Go for whole grains

Trade refined carbs for whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and whole-wheat bread. Their steady energy powers mental stamina and focus without the crash.

Healthy fats for the win

Omega-3s allow neurons and blood vessels to thrive. Seek them out in fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts.

Limit processed foods

Processed foods often load up on unhealthful fats, sugars, sodium, and preservatives that don't serve the brain or body. Make wholesome, fresh foods the mainstay of your diet.

Keep your brain active

Never Stop Learning

Challenge your mind by learning new skills, like a language or musical instrument. Engaging in mentally stimulating activities can boost neurogenesis, strengthen neuronal connections, and encourage brain plasticity.

Puzzle power

Crosswords, Sudoku, jigsaw puzzles, and strategic board games sharpen cognition. They enhance flexibility, attention, and problem-solving to keep your mind fit.

Socialise and connect

Nothing compares to rich social bonds for cognitive health. Surround yourself with supportive friends and family. Join clubs aligned with your interests or volunteer in your community.

Invest in vascular health supplements

cGPMAX® Brain Health harnesses a potent molecule we call cGP-Pro, made from bovine collagen and a special strain of Canterbury-grown New Zealand blackcurrants. Over 30 years of research have demonstrated cGP-Pro’s ability to support the prevention of age-related cognitive decline.

Our revolutionary range of supplements increases cGP levels and supports the vascular system to: 

  • Restore healthy blood flow
  • Revitalise mental clarity
  • Improve focus
  • Protect against neurodegenerative diseases

How cGPMAX® can support your cognitive function

Want to achieve a healthier, sharper and more focused mind? cGPMAX® can help get you there.

Explore the science-backed power of cGPMAX® and reveal your brain’s full potential.


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