Fact or Myth: Are there are specific periods in childhood after which certain things can no longer be learned?

Does our ability to learn new things stop at a certain age?

This is actually a neuromyth, but it has some basis in scientific research. People’s endorsement of this statement is likely due to research indicating that there is a high level of synaptogenesis (formation of connections between neurons) between ages 0-3, that some skills (learning a new language, for example) do diminish with age, and some events in brain development, such as connections in the visual system, are tied to exposure to a stimulus, such as light. That said, it is clear that a new language can be learned later in life, and at the level of synaptogenesis, we now know that synaptic connections are plastic.

If you thought this statement was true, you’re not alone. Indeed, a 2017 study by McGrath and colleagues found that 18% of the public (N = 3,045) and 19% of educators (N = 598) believed this statement was correct.

Learn more about how teachers and McGovern researchers are working to target learning interventions well past so-called “critical periods” for learning.