A specific region of the brain appears to be larger in individuals who are good at turning their thoughts inward and reflecting upon their decisions, according to new research published in the journal Science. This act of introspection — or “thinking about your thinking” — is a key aspect of human consciousness, though scientists have noted plenty of variation in peoples' abilities to introspect. In light of their findings, this team of researchers, led by Prof. Geraint Rees from University College London, suggests that the volume of gray matter in the anterior prefrontal cortex of the brain, which lies right behind our eyes, is a strong indicator of a person's introspective ability. Furthermore, they say the structure of white matter connected to this area is also linked to this process of introspection.
It remains unclear, however, how this relationship between introspection and the two different types of brain matter really works. These findings do not necessarily mean that individuals with greater volume of gray matter in that region of the brain have experienced—or will experience—more introspective thoughts than other people. But, they do establish a correlation between the structure of gray and white matter in the prefrontal cortex and the various levels of introspection that individuals may experience.