But, what even is grey matter — and why is it so impressive that it can change?
"When people talk about grey matter, they're talking about cells — the brain cells that connect to each other," Hassed says. "When a person learns a particular skill — like meditation — they're exercising those areas of grey matter, whose job it is to form that skill." Like you notice muscle gain after physical exercise, research shows that meditation may stimulate the growth of new brain cells — which means more measurable grey matter in certain areas of the brain.
Beyond reported differences in grey matter between meditators and people who don't practice, meditation has also been associated with a slowdown in the natural loss of grey matter, which occurs with aging. "In our latest study, we extended our focus of research by looking at the potential impact of aging on the brain, specifically the impact of aging on the brain's grey matter. Again, our analysis revealed a striking difference between meditators and controls: meditators' brains seem to be much less affected by the normal, natural age-related gray matter decline," Luders says.
What this means: People who meditate regularly may slow down their brain's aging process. Go meditation!