Build a Better Brain: How to Grow Grey and White Matter
Dr. Greg Wells
Optimizing the functioning and growth of your brain is essential to your performance and health. In particular, it’s important to understand the role of two kinds of tissues – white matter and grey matter – and how you can make them grow. You can see the different brain tissues in this MRI image:
© Greg Wells Ph.D. 2012
Grey matter is the part of your brain that processes information and contains all of the neuronal cells in your brain. For everything from emotion to sensory perception and memory, grey matter is where the action takes place. White matter is the part of your brain that connects all of the grey matter nodes together.
We can use another type of MR imaging to see the white matter tracts in the brain and how they connect the different brain regions together:
It’s a lighter colour because there is myelin protecting all of the nerves there, like bark on a tree. Here’s a CGI image of a neuron with myelin sheathing around the axon that connects the neurons in the brain:
© The Wells Group Inc. 2016.
If your brain were a transit system, the grey matter would be the stations and the white matter would be the tracks. You can improve the functioning of your brain by bulking up the processing centres and improving the efficiency of transmission between nodes. Basically, you can enable the trains of your mental transit system to hold more, travel faster and leave more often.
Here’s how to do it.
Grey matter has been shown to respond beautifully to meditation through the release of a protein called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which stimulates the growth and protection of neurons in your brain. Regular meditation equals improvements in information processing.
White matter, on the other hand, responds mainly to a steady diet of healthy fats, because brain matter is made up of fats. If you are out for dinner, dump dark green olive oil all over your meal. Or go for other sources of wonderful fats: cold water fish, organic nut butters, coconut and avocados. Or shellfish, omega-3, eggs, cod liver oil, flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. That white matter boost will improve the transmission of signals across your brain.
Meditation to grow grey matter, healthy fats to improve white matter. Speed up transmission, improve processing. Achieve optimal health and performance.