I am not referring to the three different regions or areas of our head brain (reptilian, mammalian and cortex).
I am talking about three separate but interconnected and interdependent brains inside of each one of us. They reside in the head, in the heart and in the gut. All three have massive networks of neurons and very distinct roles.
It explains the clash between what we think and what we often feel. Only by understanding the three brains can we arrive at a point where we make better decisions.
Why am I calling these parts brains? I am not calling these brains. Science is calling these brains. There is a technical definition of what makes a brain a brain. To constitute a brain, it must be a complex neural network, composed of different types of neurons.
There are neurons in your eyes, but this is not a brain. So, what does constitute a brain? (**warning – incoming technical info**) Skip to theoretical summary ….
These things make a brain a brain:
- Large numbers of neurons and ganglia, including sensory neurons and motor neurons
- Neural cells with inter-neurons; neurons interconnecting in complex ways with other neurons
- Support cells and components such as glial cells, astrocytes, proteins, etc.
- A chemical warehouse of neurotransmitters (those found in the head brain are also found in the gut and heart brains)
- Able to mediate complex reflexes via an intrinsic nervous system (i.e. it doesn’t need the head brain to direct it, it functions even in the complete absence of the head brain)
- Functional attributes: perceiving/assimilating information, processing information, memory storage and access, neural plasticity and adaptiveness (i.e. the ability to ‘learn’)
Brains also are able to demonstrate the following characteristics:
- Memory – they store and recall past experiences and recollections
- Association – they are able to link ideas/ memories/ experiences/ sensations
- Pattern Recognition
- Categorization – they can distinguish and sort
- Generalization – they can group like with like, unlike separately
- Feature extraction – they can focus in on certain elements
- Optimization – they can enhance their functions
- Adaptation – they can change, develop flexibility
- ‘Gain’ Control – they can learn and master certain abilities
- Context Dependent Value Coding – they can differentiate
- Neurons fire in a manner predicted by a weighted average/summation rule of information from multiple sources of sensory information – they can develop habitual ways of performing their functions (for example, say the times table off by rote, recall a painful memory with all its negative emotions)
- Plasticity – they can alter their connections and make new connections (i.e. can break old conditioning and create new habits/ ways of being)
- Neural networks have three key functions: Learning, Regulation and Selection
- (**okay – technical info ends here!**)
“They have their own intrinsic nervous systems. They’ve got neurons. They’ve got the whole range of [capabilities] in order to do complex adaptive processes. They can take on information, process it, store it, change and adapt. Basically, if it can learn, it’s a brain.” [i]
Because of the research in this area, particularly that relating to behavioural modelling.[ii] we are learning we can actually work with our multiple brains and begin to achieve results we have not been able to achieve before.
It is difficult for us as adults to imagine we have a brain (or two) located outside of our skull. This is due in part to our language centres being located in our head brain.
As well as the dominance of this brain – the head brain thinks. And it thinks it is best to deal with matters of the heart and to ‘do’ intuition.
This doesn’t always work out well – just consider when you made a decision with your head that would have worked out better if you used your heart….
Or perhaps you made a decision based totally on what your heart was telling you – and that result wasn’t terrific either, was it??
The truth is – we need to let each brain ‘do its thing’, and not interfere with the prime functions of the other brains. Instead, they need to work together – and most people need to learn how to do this.
There is much research showing why science is actually referring to the complex neural networks that are the head, the heart, and the gut as brains.
What are the three brains and their functions?
The one you know about already It is the head brain, and it does the processes such as thinking, perception, and rational and logical thought, cognition. It’s role is to make meaning of things (feelings, experiences, people), it creates narratives and is responsible for language.
The Language of the Head can be recognised when we hear (or say): “I think”, “I reckon”,
or “I understand”. You may even catch yourself saying, “I tell myself that all the time!” And this is also language of the head.
The second Brain is the heart. When we asked anyone where they feel emotions, they will automatically point to our touch the area around their heart. The certainly wouldn’t point to their knee! We innately know that it is the heart that is responsible for processing emotions, it is the place where we hold our core values, the things that are most important to us, and it is from here that we are able to connect with people.
Nobody gestures to their elbow.
The heart – as a complex, adaptive neural network – has prime functions just like the the head brain does, but they are very different functions. The heart is responsible for emotions and emoting (feeling and expressing feelings), processing our values (what is truly and really important to us), and for connecting genuinely and authentically with others, and connecting deeply with ourselves.
You can recognise Heart based language when you hear or say: “I feel” or “it feels like” or “this is important to me!” (and you can hear the emphasis on ‘important’, and you can see the emotion expressed in their body language).
Heart based language also relates to our core values.
The third part of us that science is recognising as a brain is the gut. This is the seat of our identity – our core identity. That sense of who we really are – this is in the core of your being – the deep belly (or gut). This ‘brain’ is also responsible for protecting us, for helping us to feel safe.
A lot of information on the internet these days is focusing on gut health. Our gut is responsible for supporting our immune system, and is the place in our body where the majority of serotonin (the mood-regulating brain chemical) is produced. If our gut health is not well, guess what? It effects out mood – directly!
Language of the Gut can be recognised by referring to the belly and the functions of our gastroenteric system – “it took guts to do what you did”, “I have butterflies in my stomach”, “I cannot stomach that”, “I need time to digest that”.
The most important thing I want to bring to your attention is that YOU have multiple brains!
The question is, are you using each of them to their fullest capability? Do you know how to do this?
Imagine what it would be like for you to be able to communicate to and with your heart and gut more effectively? How different could your decisions be – in all areas of your life?
This is the work I do
I help people:
- learn about their multiple brains, and
- connect with them to make dramatic and life-changing shifts in their lives, personal and professional.
I work one-on-one in individual coaching sessions (see my coaching packages) and train coaches in mBIT (see my upcoming courses). I also run workshops – see my workshops for Leaders and for the general public.
When you and I connect, let me know if you have any questions about your multiple brains.
[i] Marvin Oka, co-creator of mBIT and mBraining, co-author of the book mBraining: using your multiple brains to do cool stuff. https://spinalresearch.com.au/three-brains-head-heart-gut-sometimes-conflict/
[ii] This exciting field examines humans and their behaviour, as the name would suggest. Specifically, behaviour modelling explores a range of things that humans do, delving in to particular abilities, talent, expertise that individuals have – the behaviour modeller seeks to understand how precisely these people do what to do, so well. When they explore the step-by-step processes successful people use, they come up with a strategy, then they work to create a model and methods that others – who are not as skilled or competent – can use to duplicate the same behaviour and enjoy the same levels of success. It is, in essence, a way to improve a person’s performance in many areas.