08/10/2013 06:03 BST | Updated 29/11/2013 05:12 GMT

50 Shades of Grey Matter - How Meditation Grows Your Brain

Fascinating suggests that meditation my physically enhance your brain.

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First, what is grey matter?

Grey matter consists of the distinctive brownish-grey neural tissue, which is found in your brain and spinal cord. As it is major component in the brain, many people associate grey matter with intelligence and intellect.

Grey matter's job is to pass along sensory input and ensuring that it gets to the proper destination, and the speed of this information is determined by the white matter. Therefore, as a team, grey and white matter act as the central processing unit of your brain.


As suggested by Helen Pilcher in Nature, the amount grey matter, may indeed to be linked to intelligence. By studying and comparing brain images and correlating them to intelligence scores, researchers from this study, claim that human intellect is based on the volume of grey matter in certain brain regions.

So apparently, size does matter after all.


Fans of meditation have been claiming for years, that meditation can help to increase intelligence, memory and cognitive thinking. Now, modern technology and science are starting to support their claims.

In a study published in Neuroreport, researchers at the Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark studied brain images with magnetic resonance imaging and found that long-term meditation is associated with increased grey matter density in the brain stem.

Another fine example can be found in a study performed in the Waksman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behaviour at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For this study the Dalai Lama himself helped to recruit several Tibetan Monks who had clocked in tens of thousands of hours of meditation, in order to study their brains. Researchers found that these long-term meditators had actually altered the structure and function of their brains for the better.


Another interesting study that was performed at the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at the University of California, Los Angeles, suggests that long-term meditators had increased gyrification -- a term that describes the folding of the cerebral cortex, the outermost part of the brain. Although a preliminary study, the indications are certainly fascinating.

Dr. Eileen Luders, a meditator herself and the study's lead author, explains:

You could argue that more folds mean more neurons. These are the processing units of the brain, and so having more might mean that you have greater cognitive capacities. - Dr. Eileen Luders

Additionally, it turns out that meditation might be a good idea before a stressful exam. Researchers from The Department of Psychology, Maharishi International University, in Iowa teamed up with scientists from the University of Northern Iowa and Athabasca University, to test out this theory.

Working with a sample size of one hundred college men and women, they found that practicing meditation significantly improved performance on intelligence-related measures (a fancy word for a tough exam!).


So, perhaps with a little meditation, you too, could enjoy 50 more shades of grey matter!

Dr. Michelle Nielsen

All images supplied by Fotolia.