How To Grow Your Brain Without Half Trying


Silence literally makes your brain bigger.

I just came across a 2013 study published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function—about the effect silence had on the brains of mice. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

I served my writing apprenticeship in the City Rooms of daily newspapers, so I’m no stranger to noise. I learned how to block out chatter, shouting and random blasphemies while putting together a news story accurately and succinctly (well, at least succinctly). My ability to find a quiet place in my mind to write amid the cacophony proved Charles de Leusse's thought that, “Noise hides the silence. It does not destroy the silence.”

Here’s what some other studies of silence show, as reported by science writer Rebecca Beris:

  • Children who were exposed to noise developed a stress response that caused them to ignore the noise. These children, however, ignored not only harmful stimuli, but also stimuli they should be paying attention to—such as speech.
  • If you live in a consistently noisy environment, you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.
  • Noise—even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage—causes stress and is harmful to humans.
  • Two minutes of silence can prove to be more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music.
  • Noise harms performance at work and school, can decrease motivation and increase errors. The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.
  • Children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

I see silence as the default mode of existence. When God speaks, his language is silence. When he sculpts galaxies, sets planets spinning, blows up stars or pokes a black hole awake, all is discharged in the utter silence of extraterrestrial space.

When it comes to inner space, however, the late Bishop Fulton J. Sheen cut to the quick: “Noise is invoked to drown out the whisperings of conscience.” 

Read my newest book, Fat Guy in a Fat Boat, in print or Kindle from Amazon:

Also available is my e-book, A Light from Within, about the small moments of our lives that seem commonplace until they are examined under a creative lens.

And my weekly reflection on each Sunday of the Jubilee Year of Mercy can be found at:

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