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Why Does Gray Matter, Matter?

We have all heard the brain referred to as “gray matter”, but what does that actually mean, and why is it important? The brain comes in two parts, gray matter and white matter. Gray matter is what gives humans our information processing power. With the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), scientists have been able to identify three main components – neurons, the cells that make connections and store information in our brain, glial cells that feed the neurons so they can work at their best, and capillaries, which provide cells with blood and oxygen. The white matter, on the other hand, is found deeper within the brain, and works to send information to the gray matter.

What Makes Us So Special?

So, why is all this matter so important? Well, studies have shown that the more gray matter there is in certain parts of the brain, the more intelligent a person or animal is. The denser the gray matter is, the more wrinkles the brain will have. Human brains have a lot of wrinkles, which gives them the distinctive pattern that we recognize. However, all brains do not look like this – less intelligent, smaller animals have relatively smooth brains compared to ours.

Location, Location, Location

Recent studies have shown that it is not just the amount of gray matter that determines intelligence, but its location as well. Recent MRI scans of living brains have shown that there are 24 key regions of the brain where gray matter density is linked to the IQ of the person. These regions tend to be associated with the language, memory, and attention regions of the brain. More neurons in these sections of the brain makes storing and accessing information quicker and easier.

Does Size Really Matter?

Interestingly, it is not just the size of the brain that matters, either; researchers have found that only 6% of gray matter is directly linked to human intelligence. Intellect, therefore, is about the right stuff in the right places.

Via Radiology

Via Radiology provides Seattle diagnostic imaging, offering services like ultrasound, MRI, CT scans, x-ray and other imaging modalities. We also provide interventional services and screening services, including screenings for lung cancer. Contact us online or call 206-306-1011 for more information.