Did you know you can actually increase your IQ by increasing your grey matter? What is grey matter you ask? To start, grey matter contains a vast majority of the brain’s neuronal cell bodies. Grey matter is found in the hippocampus and is involved in sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control. Higher presence of grey matter has been associated with increased learning capabilities and improved memory, along with an increased sense of self awareness.
While grey matter can decrease with age, it is possible to increase the grey matter in the brain.
If you are looking to increase cognitive function, improve your learning capability, or just preserve your present brain functioning, incorporate these activities into your life to increase the grey matter of the brain.
Recent studies from Harvard University found that long-term meditators have increased amounts of gray matter in the insula and sensory regions, and the auditory and sensory cortex. Meditation also fosters beneficial brainwave patterns such as alpha, theta, and delta. Meditation not only increases your grey brain matter, but also reduces stress, fosters clear thinking, and increases our capacity for empathy.
2. Stimulate Your Mind Through Games
Believe it or not, you can actually increase the amount of grey matter in your brain through playing video games. A recent study led by researchers from the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China and Macquarie University of Sydney scanned the brains of professional gamers using functional MRI. They found that their brains had a heightened connectivity between certain subregions in the insular cortex, and increased thickness, surface area, and volume of grey matter. This is great news if you love video games, as they do not actually make you dumb as some people suggest. In fact, playing video games can actually make you learn faster, increase your creativity, and enhance problem solving skills.
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3. Aerobic Exercise
There are dozens of studies that show that aerobic exercise can increase grey matter in the brain. Older adults can actually increase brain volume in regions of the brain linked to age-related brain structure and function decline. In fact, a landmark 2006 study found regular aerobic exercise significantly increases both gray and white matter regions of the brain.
4. Learn A New Skill
As we age, we tend to get comfortable and don’t push ourselves mentally. Learning a new skill is a great way to strengthen connections within the brain.
A 2004 study published in Nature by German researchers divided 24 non-jugglers into two groups and assigned one group to practice juggling for three months. The scientists performed brain scans on the volunteers using magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, before and after they learned to juggle. The study found that volunteers who did not train to juggle showed no difference in their brain scans over the three-month period. However, those who now acquired the skill demonstrated an increase in gray matter in two areas of the brain involved in visual and motor activity, the mid-temporal area and the posterior intraparietal sulcus.
By challenging the brain to learn a new skill, it literally gets bigger due to the growth of gray matter.
5. Omega-3 Fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon, are associated with increased grey matter volume in areas of the brain commonly linked to mood and behavior according to a University of Pittsburgh study.
Be sure to include foods that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids such as wild caught Salmon. Also, consider mixing in an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement into your arsenal. Not all Omega-3 supplements are the same, so make sure you are taking a natural, high-quality one. We recommend Icelandic Omega-3 Fish Oil by BioSchwartz, which is non-GMO, pharmaceutical grade, and easily the best Omega-3 supplement on the market.
6. Get rid of bad habits
Bad habits can cancel out any positive changes you are trying to make to your brain. Bad habits such as smoking cigarettes or drinking too much alcohol can wreak havoc on your grey brain matter. Forcing yourself to change a habit will help the brain to break down strong negative neural connections, thus allowing healthy new connections to take place. Destroying unhealthy brain connections is just as important as forming new ones.
7. Use your imagination
This may seem like an odd one, but using your imagination can send off the neuron firing squad, and causes the grey matter to sit up and take notice. Upon reaching age 30, our brains start to shrink – and if you think about it, so does our imagination.
Try exercising your imagination to promote the maintenance and growth of grey brain matter through painting, writing, reading fiction, or any other creative hobby you might have.
8. Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is the practice of fasting for 16 hours a day, and only eating your meals during a given 8-hour window. The idea is to do a “mini fast” each day, and studies have shown routinely practicing intermittent fasting can beneficially thicken certain parts of your brain while boosting brain function.
Not only does fasting have a beneficial effect on brain matter, but it also increases production of brain neurotropic growth factor — a protein that promotes neuron growth and protection — making us more resilient to neurological stress and thus staving off neurodegenerative diseases.