How to Increase Grey Matter in the Brain

Anju Mobin
By Anju Mobin
Joel Taylor
Edited by Joel Taylor

Published March 2, 2022.

A young woman sitting with her legs crossed and meditating

Stress is a constant in today's always-on-the-go lifestyle. Changes in lifestyle due to the pandemic lockdown have reduced physical activity and increased food intake for most people. Many people find it hard to recall even which day of the week it is. Are you experiencing such memory fogs, lethargy, and finding it difficult to think clearly? Then your brain might be lacking some crucial grey matter.

Here are some great tips to improve your mood, reduce stress, and boost energy levels by increasing the grey matter in your brain.

What Is Grey Matter?

Our central nervous system (CNS), which consists of the brain and spinal cord, is made up of two types of tissues:

  1. Grey matter
  2. White matter

Grey matter is what controls your memory, emotions, and even movement. It consists of unmyelinated axons and neuronal cell bodies, as well as glial cells and capillaries that help transport nutrients and energy to the neurons (brain cells).

The neurons and glial cells give a greyish hue, along with the capillaries giving a dull reddish-pinkish color. It is this area that helps process information in the brain. It also helps control movement, decision-making, memory, and emotions. Therefore, grey matter loss symptoms include extreme mental fatigue, forgetfulness, and memory loss.

Can Grey Matter Be Increased?

Can grey matter regenerate? The volume of the grey matter only increases till the age of 8 years, after which it starts to decrease. Therefore, grey matter really can’t grow anymore, but its density can increase. Recent studies have confirmed that grey matter volume can increase only in certain areas such as the hippocampus and amygdala (1).

The different ways by which it is possible are:

  • Working memory training Working memory training does bring a change in grey matter, mainly in the anterior frontal, parietal, and middle temporal regions. These are known to support cognitive processes, which is required for the successful performance of tasks (2).
  • Meditation Studies have revealed that meditation increases grey matter in the auditory and sensory cortex (3). This improves self-awareness, learning, memory, and motion regulation, thereby slowing down age-related problems (4).
  • Yoga In yoga, we learn to control our posture, breathing, and focus. Studies have shown that asanas, breathing exercises, and meditation increase grey matter density in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex (5), (6).
  • Exercise Exercise and grey matter go hand in hand. Higher levels of fitness due to exercise are associated with higher grey matter volume (7).
  • Proper Sleep Sleep is when your mind is at rest. It is an integral part of healthy living. Therefore, poor sleep can be a big cause of cognitive impairment. It can disrupt neuronal networks and cause memory issues. A good night’s sleep not only calms your mind but also makes you more focused and productive.
  • Video games When it comes to video games and grey matter, studies have found a correlation between playing 3-D platform video games such as Super Mario 64 and an increase in the volume of grey matter in young adults (8).
  • Fasting Fasting increases the production of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that promotes brain cell growth. It acts as a fertilizer that helps regenerate brain cells naturally. Fasting also reduces the occurrence of neurodegenerative diseases and is known to increase the volume of grey matter.

Foods that Increase Grey matter

Did you know that our brain responds to the food we eat? Nutrient-rich foods can trigger the growth of nerve cells in adults and children.

To boost grey matter, you should have plenty of fruits and veggies that are full of phytonutrients and antioxidants, fatty fish, and healthy fats that have omega-3s such as EPA and DHA. Berries and nuts are brain-protective. Tea provides you with L-Theanine, which is also a food your brain needs.

That being said, the jury is still out on whether coffee consumption can increase grey matter or not. While it is true that very high coffee consumption is associated with reduced brain volume (9), if you keep your coffee consumption to moderate levels, you should not be at risk.

Improving Grey Matter Improves General Well Being

Mindfulness living practices such as daily exercise, meditation, good food, and adequate sleep can improve your grey matter. The more energized you are, the better your brain health. Whether it is gardening, dancing, singing, or reading, a healthy routine paves the way to better brain health.