Introducing Our Second and Third Brains: We Do Think With Our Heart and Instinct
Posted Mar 22 2011 12:25pm
Neuro-scientists have finally done it! They have demonstrated that we have a brain in our heart and another in our intestines. What we have in each of these, in actual fact, is an extensive mass of neurons that behave in a fashion similar to the neurons contained in the brain, and that appear to function at mega-speeds, often much greater than those of our cerebral neurons.
The Second Brain
The second brain consists of about 100 billion nerve cells in the digestive tract – a greater number than those in the spinal cord. Professor W. Prinz of the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research in Munich indicated to Geo Magazine that it is possible that unconscious decisions may be taken by the stomach network, which are later claimed by the main brain as conscious decisions of its own.
This second brain was brought to light by neuro-biologist Michael Gershon of New York’s Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, author of . When asked if the brain in our heads influences our second brain, he replied that it does, and that we get butterflies in the stomach when the brain sends a message of anxiety to the gut. This, in turn, sends messages back to the brain that it is not happy. However – and this is perhaps the most riveting part of it – the brain in the gut can also work in isolation.
The Third Brain
With his revolutionary research the University of Montreal’s pioneer neurocardiologist Dr. J. Andrew Armour first introduced the concept of a functional heart brain in the 1990’s. This brain in the heart – just as the brain in the digestive tract – may also act independently of the brain in the head. The size of this brain, according to Boulder Creek, California’s Institute of HeartMath , is as great as a number of the principle areas of the brain in the head. Studies discussed in , have shown that the consistency of the rhythm found in the heart brain is capable of changing – sometimes in spectacular fashion - how effectively the thinking brain functions. In theory that means that what occurs on a feeling level, has the capacity to deeply influence what occurs on a thinking level.
In , co-authored by Doc Childre and H. Martin, an in-depth look is taken at the heart and its association with the mind and body. This contributes to the newly emerging view of the heart as a complex, self-organized system that maintains a continuous two-way dialogue with the brain and the rest of the body. Research available at the Heartmath website and published in major medical journals demonstrates that the heart has a significant influence on the function of our brains and all our bodily systems.
What This Implies
Imagine the implications of this! Those who live by “their instinct”, or who “listen” to their gut, or who make decisions based on what their heart tells them rather than their logical brain, now know that although that may not necessarily always be the right way to go, but that this clearly shows that in order to make decisions based on all of their knowledge, they should apply not only that which their logical brain tells them, but also what their feeling brain (heart), and their instinctive brain (gut) have given them to understand.
Keeping up with cutting edge research is a fascinating thing because it means that you are able to discover what is happening in that intriguing world of avant-garde thought and progress long before any of this hits the main stream press. It means that you can begin to apply the information contained therein long before everyone else is talking about it…and of course the only reason that is important, is because it might make such an enormous difference to the quality of your life…sometimes just because it changes the way you think about things.
Concurrence in El Pais and Der Spiegel
A 2006 article by Alex Celma in the weekend supplement of the Spanish daily El Pais referred to the value of tenderness, not just in the sense of tenderness in relationships, but in the sense of how tenderness can be implicit in thinking actions, and make a difference in decisions taken. A few weeks later, an article in the German weekly Der Spiegel referred to the fact that more and more researchers, psychologists, neuroscientists, and even philosophers, are paying record amounts of attention to the study of intuition, some of whom have gone so far as to state that human intuition is much sharper and stronger than reason.
Aristoteles and Albert Einstein Knew
Even Albert Einstein stated that “the intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Clearly he recognized the priceless value of intuition over reason, while simultaneously expressing that reason evidently plays an important role, further saying: “the only really valuable thing is intuition.” Concurring with Aristoteles who said “intuition is the source of scientific knowledge”, Einstein also stated, “I believe in intuition and inspiration; at times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason.”
Antonio Damasio: “I Feel, Therefore I Am”
Antonio Damasio, the widely-recognized Iowa University based Portuguese neuro-scientist and author of the highly-acclaimed , has demonstrated, based on his extensive experience and studies with neurological patients, that every decision an individual makes needs an emotional impulse, because human beings can not act based purely on reason. In his earlier book , Damasio insists that the renowned philosopher’s axiom: I think, therefore I am, is a mistake, and that it should read: I feel, therefore I am, which became the motivational slogan of Daniel Goleman, author of . Cooper and The Other 90%
Robert K. Cooper, author of , writes that many people have learned not to pay attention to the butterflies in the stomach (gut), and what the heart is feeling because that way it is so much easier to let the head lead the way, thus trampling over possibly better choices that might put all of their different sources of intelligence to use.
Paying Attention to All Our Brains
As a society we have very much undermined and sabotaged the knowing we receive from our feelings and our intuition. Even when we are wont to give such knowing value, due to consistent and damaging connotations connected to feelings and intuition, we often hesitate to even give them any consideration at all when they arise in us. Therefore, research such as that described in this article is very encouraging, because it may persuade many who might not otherwise do so, to pay greater attention to such knowing, and to begin to use it in their daily lives.
Photo: Canadian Rockies
Note: this article has appeared previously in a number of publications, as well as in my monthly newsletter