10 Ways to Increase the Size of Your Brain
Increased length of yoga practice is associated with positive changes in the left hemisphere, including increasing gray matter volumes in clusters located in the left insula, left frontal operculum, right middle temporal gyrus and left orbitofrontal cortex. (McGill University and the National Institutes of Health 2015) . These areas of the brain are involved in: Perception, Motor control, Self-awareness, Cognitive functioning, Inhibition; Impulse control, Social behavior, Memory processing, Interpersonal experience, Emotion, and rewarding decision making (2, 3, 4, 5, 6) See how Brain scans reveal that yoga changes your brain chemistry in positive ways.
Those same researchers found that the number of hours of weekly practice correlated with gray matter volume in different areas of the brain, including the hippocampus, primary visual cortex, primary somatosensory cortex/suprior parietal lobule and precuneus/posterior cingulate cortex. These areas of the brain include functions related to:
- Self awareness
- Limbic system (emotion regulation) (7)
Juggling increases your brain’s grey matter, and white matter, regardless of your skill in the activity. Grey matter is the part of the brain that contains nerve cells’ bodies. White matter consists of parts of the brain that contain mostly axons. These are outgrowths of nerve cells that serve as cell connectors. (8)
In 2009, scientists from the University of Oxford discovered juggling bulks up your brain’s “white matter,” too. Study participants practiced juggling for a half hour daily for six weeks. Diffusion tensor brain imaging taken before and after the activity, showed that, while the white matter in the brains of the non-juggling control group did not change, the jugglers enjoyed more white matter in the parietal lobe part of the brain. And get this:
The increase in white matter occurred in all jugglers, regardless of how well they could juggle. (9) The parietal lobe helps involves spacial awareness, proprioception and processing the sense of touch. 10)
Numerous studies suggest engaging in meditation structurally changes your brain for the better.
In a 2011, Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital researchers published a breakthrough study showing that guided meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction led to measurable brain changes in areas involved with human memory, compassion and stress. In fact, practicing mindfulness meditation for just eight weeks changes your brain in a way that MRI scanners can detect.
(Mindfulness meditation involves becoming aware of what is true moment by moment; to be present and turn attention to what is happening at that moment in a nonjudgemental way.) (11)
MRI images showed more brain matter density in the compassion, learning and memory centers in the hippocampus compared to pre-meditation scans. Interestingly, gray matter in the amygdala, a stress and anxiety center, shrank. All of this occurred with an average of 27 minutes of meditation practice a day for just eight weeks. (12, 13)
We know from earlier studies that mindfulness-based stress reduction bolsters the posterior cingulate cortex, the temporo-parietal junction and the cerebellum areas of the brain. These areas involve learning and memory, emotion regulation, empathy and sense of self. Prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula areas of the brain were thicker among meditators. These areas impact sensory processing. Researchers say based on the brain-sparing properties meditation has, it could be a way to offset age-related cortical thinning. (14)
Click on the link below to experience a guided meditation for stress relief
A Meditation for Stress Relief & Anxiety: Walk Along the Beach Guided Meditation Visualization
Learn to play an instrument (particularly at a young age)
Consume high-quality Omega-3s
Medical studies suggest that intermittent fasting not only increases energy, but also:
- Increases production of brain neurotropic growth factor — a protein that promotes neuron growth and protection — making us more resilient to neurological stress, thus staving off neurodegenerative diseases (27)
- Makes us less insulin resistant, staving off fat and insulin related disease by reducing levels of circulating IGF-1 and increasing insulin sensitivity without lowering the resting metabolic rate (25)
- May improve immunity, lower diabetes risk, and improve heart health (26)