Modern neuroscience is catching up with what we’ve instinctually recognized for a long time. It’s showing that both the heart and the gut possess independent neural networks that could be considered ‘brains’ in their own right.
We rely on these systems of neurons to help us make decisions that our head brain (our intellect) cannot make alone.
In their recent book mBraining: Using Your Multiple Brains to do Cool Stuff, authors Grant Soosalu and Marvin Oka identify 3 prime functions of each brain:
Heart Brain: Emoting (emotional processing), Values (processing what’s important to you, priorities), and Relational Affect (your felt connection with others). The highest expression of the heart brain is compassion.
Gut Brain: Core Identity (a deep and visceral sense of core self), Self Preservation (protection of self, boundaries, safety, hungers and aversions), and Mobilization (motility, impulse for action, courage and the will to act). The highest expression of the gut brain is courage.
Head Brain: Cognitive Perception (cognition, perception, pattern recognition, etc.), Thinking (reasoning, abstraction, analysis, synthesis, meta-cognition, etc.), and Meaning Making (semantic processing, languaging, narrative, metaphor, etc.). The highest expression of the head brain is creativity.
See the full article from the authors here.
This research has important implications for how we approach learning & development, which has largely been focused on our head brains.
The key to making better decisions may very well lie in our ability to think in a more integrative way, consciously activating the several cognitive systems throughout our bodies to consider the best course of action.
How do we learn to do this better?