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I have heard about the triune brain model in biology class, but my teacher does not know much about it. What I'm curious about, is this model accepted by most of the neuroscientists, or is it just a mere hypothesis? And should I learn more about it? Although I think it's an interesting topic, I won't put efforts in finding all the info on the net, if not necessary.
Triune brain model - Biology
By now, defense attorneys are well aware of the &ldquoReptile Theory,&rdquo a deposition and trial tactic adopted and advocated by plaintiff attorneys around the country based upon David Ball's and Don C. Keenan&rsquos book, Reptile: The 2009 Manual Of The Plaintiff's Revolution. The Reptile Theory, the goal of which is to achieve exceptionally large verdicts, is a re-envisioning of the universally prohibited &ldquogolden rule&rdquo argument that asks jurors to step into the plaintiff&rsquos shoes and perceive the defendant&rsquos conduct at issue as a threat to their own personal safety.
The association of the &ldquoReptile Theory&rdquo with &ldquoreptiles&rdquo is itself based upon a false, pseudoscientific premise of the &ldquotriune brain&rdquo&mdashthe notion that underneath the more advanced mammalian neocortex and the paleomammalian limbic system, humans have a primal brain structure, leftover from our evolutionary past, where survival instincts reside and emotional reactions to perceived threats occur. The Triune Brain theory roughly alleges that over the course of vertebrate evolution, new, more complex brain structures developed over the top of older structures that controlled more primal, survival-oriented behaviors&mdashthe &ldquoreptile brain.&rdquo
However, triune brain model, which arrived on the scene in the 1960s, has been debunked and is no longer part of current neuroscience orthodoxy. A recent commentary by Joseph Cesario, David J. Johnson and Heather L. Eisten, entitled &ldquo Your Brain Is Not an Onion With a Tiny Reptile Inside ,&rdquo published in May 2020 by in Current Directions in Psychological Science, explains the flaws inherent in the triune brain model, stating that &ldquo[t]his belief, although widely shared and stated as fact in psychology textbooks, lacks any foundation in evolutionary biology,&rdquo
The authors explain that the appeal of the triune brain model lies in its simplicity:
Perhaps mistaken ideas about brain evolution persist because they fit with the human experience: We do sometimes feel overwhelmed with uncontrollable emotions and even use animalistic terms to describe these states. These ideas are also consistent with such traditional views of human nature as rationality battling emotion&hellipThey are also simple ideas that can be distilled to a single paragraph in an introductory textbook as a nod to biological roots of human behavior. Nevertheless, they lack any foundation in our understanding of neurobiology or evolution and should be abandoned by psychological scientists.
In one of our previous blog posts , we discussed particular strategies for defense attorneys to use in when filing motions in limine to challenge the use of Reptile tactics at trial. When challenging the use of Reptile tactics in motion practice, one should focus on explaining the tactic as a mere repackaging of prohibited &ldquoGolden Rule&rdquo arguments and should avoid getting bogged down explaining in detail the pseudoscience of Reptile.
Nonetheless, this paper&rsquos commentary on the erroneous oversimplification of human brain anatomy suggests another way to think of Reptile. At its essence, Reptile oversimplifies and misrepresents the standard of care in a negligence action by framing legal duties as a combination of ill-defined &ldquosafety rules&rdquo that a defendant either did or did not follow. But the circumstances that led to litigation are likely nuanced and not reducible to an oversimplified list of binary choices, and the &ldquosafety rules&rdquo do not necessarily accurately or fairly reflect the legal standard of care.
Thinking of Reptile Theory as a reductio ad absurdum logical fallacy, given the facts of the case, can therefore help attorneys challenge the use of this tactic as an impermissible reframing of the standard of care.
Reptilian brain (old brain / lizard brain)
- This is the oldest cortical structure: it appeared in fish nearly 500 million years ago, continued to develop in amphibians, and reached its most advanced stage in reptiles roughly 250 million years ago
- Its main role is to control the body's vital functions: heart rate, breathing, body temperature, balance, etc., basically to keep us alive and safe
- It routes the information up and down in our organism: takes it from the other structures and forwards it to the body as commands, and also receives sensory information from the body (via the spine) and sends it to more advanced structures for more in-depth processing
- It’s something reptiles, mammals and us — humans — share
The ‘Triune Brain’ theory by Neuroscientist Paul MacLean — an evolutionary perspective
In the 1960s, American neuroscientist Paul MacLean formulated the ‘Triune Brain’ model, which is based on the division of the human brain into three distinct regions. MacLean’s model suggests the human brain is organized into a hierarchy, which itself is based on an evolutionary view of brain development. The three regions are as follows:
- Reptilian or Primal Brain (Basal Ganglia)
- Paleomammalian or Emotional Brain (Limbic System)
- Neomammalian or Rational Brain (Neocortex)
At the most basic level, the brainstem (Primal Brain) helps us identify familiar and unfamiliar things. Familiar things are usually seen as safe and preferable, while unfamiliar things are treated with suspicion until we have assessed them and the context in which they appear. For this reason, designers, advertisers, and anyone else involved in selling products tend to use familiarity as a means of evoking pleasant emotions.
An introduction to the Triune Brain model
This is the most important article on this new blog. Today I’m going to reveal how some very basic psychology/neurology can totally revolutionize how we think about healing.
This extremely simple theory, known as the triune brain model will let you:
- understand the difference between thoughts, feelings and gut instincts
- know how the real origin of our blocks lie
- clearly understand why working with beliefs or emotions doesn’t make permanent changes in your life
- learn a simple test (the “fish test”) to know if you have reached the bottom block.
This is extremely valuable and cutting edge information. In 2009 we charged thousands of dollars for this information on our Level 3 course. Now we’ve decided to give it away for free here and include it in our revised Level 1 course. [Don’t worry we have plenty of new material for the Level 3 course.]
Just a reminder that this information is owned by a charitable foundation and protected by international copyright. You are most welcome to use it to your heart’s content, but you cannot sell it or incorporate it into your own courses or manuals without asking us first.
The New Reference Point Therapy
The new RPT is a development and simplification of the technique we launched in 2009. After teaching the courses almost non stop for 6 months, things really “clicked”. It was in Slovenia, in December 2009, that we could finally say we were happy with the new work.
For those who read our blog or took our courses in 2009, what’s changed is that there’s a lot less focus on trauma, and a lot more focus on finding the key “tone” that holds the trauma in place. If you acknowledge the key tone, all the trauma and negative beliefs, feelings etc can disappear at the one time. There’s a trick to it of course, which I’ll be sharing here over the coming weeks.
How does it work? A basic introduction to the Triune Brain
I’m using an adapted triune brain model to explain the new work. [It's a basic psychological model, refer to this Wikipedia link for more info.] Please note that we don’t use the triune brain as a healing technique it just a model that helps us to teach you. This is a teaching concept I’ll cover the healing technique in a later blog.
Part (a): Humanity’s greatest asset makes healing too complicated
In really really simple terms, it’s like this. As humans we have an advanced brain called the neocortex which allows us to do complex human things, like create language. All of our belief systems exist here, because they exist in language. (This is why animals don’t really have beliefs, not in the sense the humans do.) When you do any “belief work” healing technique – and there are many such as psychology, NLP and others I used to practice, you are healing or working on the neocortex.
Working on the neocortex is appropriate when the origin of the problem is IN the neocortex. It sometimes is – but most of the time the original of your “stuff” arose before the neocortex was developed. This could be in your early childhood, in the womb, or sometimes it’s genetic – going so far back to our ancestors who did not use the neocortex. If McFetridge is right in suggesting that over 90% of our problems relate to trauma prior to our birth, then healing techniques working on the neocortex are simply not going to get to the bottom of things.
This is a simple psychological / neurological explanation for why (as I’ve repeatedly stated), belief work just can’t get to the bottom of your stuff. It works on the wrong part of your brain – the part that holds beliefs just didn’t exist when the problem started.
The reason why our greatest strength can be our weakness is that we have such a tendency to make things over-complicated. Healing, like spirituality, is meant to be incredibly simple. But before it becomes simple you have to get out of your head, or be “out of your mind”.
Part (b): With a hand on my heart
The second brain is the mammalian brain or limbic system. In the Peak States literature this is associated with the heart chakra. When you feel your deeper feelings by putting a hand on your heart, you are moving beyond words and into your limbic system. There is a huge range of emotions – everything from fear to love – which we can attribute to intelligent animals such as dogs. These emotions rest in the mammalian brain. Trying to heal them with words doesn’t work as they are pre-verbal.
There are many healing techniques which work on feelings through the heart chakra / limbic system. This includes Family Constellations and many yogic or meditative techniques, especially those that activate the heart chakra. These techniques usually get deeper than the neocortex “mental” techniques because they allow you to access pre-verbal trauma, i.e. blocks with no beliefs associated with them.
It was my spiritual coach Soleira who first taught me that feeling things by putting your hand on your heart is very limited. We are only accessing heart energy (which I now know is the limbic system), not our full consciousness. Soleira teaches her students to feel things with their whole Beingness – something we adopt in RPT.
Part (c): Could a fish feel this?
The R-complex is the most primitive of the brains. It is a part of the brain which, in a limited sense, is common to all mammals, fish, bird and reptiles. In my research I haven’t found an existing technique that specifically works on the R-complex, but I’m sure that there are some. The Peak States research associates the R-complex with the dan tien in Chinese medicine, which is loosely associated with the solar plexus chakra in the Indian system.
In simple terms, what this means is that when you put you hand on your solar plexus or dan tien and access a gut feeling, you are reaching a much deeper place than working through your heart. It is more primitive, which means it’s less complex. Usually primitive has a negative connotation, but here, primitive means “basic” and “easier to heal”.
A simple test I developed to loosely gauge whether something is in the R-complex is to ask my clients “could a fish feel that?” It’s generally accepted that ht R-complex first appeared in fish. Fish don’t feel fear or other “heart” emotions. In fact a fish or little lizard will only have the most basic of instincts and impulses. These usually have to do with survival, safety, eating and reproduction.
If a client tries to tell me that the bottom line underneath their problems is fear, shame, guilt, abuse, anger or any other emotions, I know they haven’t reached the bottom yet. A fish would have no concept of those feelings, they simply don’t exist in the R-complex. The client needs to go deeper – and simpler.
It is my belief that almost every problem that holds humans (and mammals) back can be traced back to one of these core instincts in the R-complex. In other words, a fish does not suffer worthiness issues or depression but a fish that’s been attacked (and escaped) does have a type of trauma (“tone” is more accurate) about survival. It’s this survival tone which is the ultimate core of our worthiness problems.
Not every problem has it’s origin in the R-complex, but we find that most of them do – probably more than 90%. What our research shows is that identifying and clearing problems in the R-complex allows you to heal things much more quickly and simply. Because it’s truly non-verbal (not just pre-verbal), you certainly don’t need to worry about finding the rights words. And because we trace the origin back to the very beginning (think 500 million years of neurological development), we really are getting to the bottom of things.
I also love the fact that the R-complex unites all birds, reptiles, mammals and fish (I’m not too sure about insect brains!). This sits really well with the idea of healing through Being one with all. Since the original block in the R-complex may have occurred millions of years ago, healing it heals not just humanity, but LIFE itself.
So how do we heal the R-complex?
I am going to tell you on this blog, but not quite yet. I need to edit some videos so you can see it in action. The main reason is you don’t need to do anything really, but you may need to see this to believe it! (It’s harder to teach people to do nothing than it is to teach people to do something! For that reason we still use a range of “training-wheel” techniques on our course.)
OK, enough theory for today, I hope this little lesson has you excited to start exploring the magical new world of instant healings through Beingness. Please share your comments, thoughts and questions here.
You Don’t Have a Lizard Brain
Despite our best intentions, scientists sometimes make a very basic mistake: we look for what makes humans unique.
Certainly, humans are not just unique, but extraordinary. Nothing else in the known universe has produced art, science, technology, or civilization. But, our history of searching for how, precisely, we came to be exceptional has often led to bad science – and to popular acceptance of bad science. Nowhere is that clearer than in the hugely popular – and entirely wrong – theory called the Triune Brain Hypothesis.
You may have heard of it as the proposal that we have “lizard brains.”
The triune brain hypothesis, developed by the neuroscientist Paul MacLean between the 1960s and 1990s and widely popularized by the astronomer Carl Sagan , asserts that we have a “lizard brain” under our “mammal brain,” and that our “mammal brain” is itself under our primate/human brain. Under this hypothesis, brain evolution is an additive process: new layers of brain tissue emerge on top of old layers, leading to a tenuous but effective coexistence between the “old brain” and the “new brain.”
MacLean proposed his (incorrect) theory after he made some curious observations about the effects of cutting out what he called the “reptilian complex” of a monkey’s brain (so named because he thought it looked similar to the tissue that made up most of a reptile’s brain). When MacLean took out this part of a male monkey’s brain, the monkey stopped aggressively gesturing at its own reflection (which it thought was another male monkey). This behavioral change seemed to fit MacLean’s hunch that he had taken out a “reptile”-like part of the monkey’s brain, since he thought that aggressive gesturing is a typical example of “reptilian behavior.”
It’s unclear why cutting out this part of the monkey’s brain made the monkeys stop showing aggressive displays, but this brain area, more commonly called the globus pallidus, is known to be involved in an enormous variety of processes. Also, to my knowledge, MacLean’s original observations have not been replicated. What’s more, MacLean’s claim about the prominence of the globus pallidus in the reptilian brain is false: it forms just one part of reptiles’ brains, exactly as it does in the monkey brain .
Based on these loose observations, MacLean argued that we might have a “lizard” brain inside of our brain. In other words, he thought that we never got rid of the “reptilian” brain we inherited from our reptile ancestors, but instead evolved new brain structures on top of our old reptile brain.
Based on these shaky foundations, together with other loose observations regarding what he considered to be uniquely mammalian behavior, MacLean went on to develop a full-blown theory of human brain evolution. The theory held that inside our brains there is a primitive reptilian complex, which is surrounded by an “old” mammalian structure called the limbic system, which is itself surrounded by a “new” mammalian structure called the neocortex. The neocortex was, MacLean asserted, the crowning jewel of brain evolution – the structure, in other words, which made humans (and perhaps other intelligent mammals) unique.
Over the last few decades, MacLean’s theory has become part of the cultural zeitgeist. Clickbait articles bashing the “basic ‘lizard brain’ psychology” of an opponent political group appear on mainstream news websites. Articles with headlines like “Your Lizard Brain” and “Don’t Listen to Your Lizard Brain” get featured on Psychology Today, a magazine whose sales have soared to the top 10 in the nation . The triune brain theory has even been featured prominently in a blog article on Scientific American, an award-winning and massively popular science magazine. Except perhaps for the political clickbait, these are all publications that make an honest and serious attempt to get the scientific facts right. And this popularity can’t just be pinned on major media: I’ve seen the triune brain theory pop up in college psychology textbooks (e.g this one , this one , and this one ), and a search for #triunebrain on Twitter yields a litany of casual references to the idea that we have a lizard brain.
But MacLean’s triune brain theory is completely wrong – and neuroscientists have known it’s wrong for decades.
The theory is wrong for a simple reason: our brains aren’t fundamentally different from those of reptiles, or even from those of fish. Every mammal has a neocortex (not just the really intelligent ones), and all vertebrates, including reptiles, birds, amphibians, and fish, have analogues of a cortex.
In fact, the very idea that new brain structures emerge on top of old ones is fundamentally at odds with how evolution usually works: biological structures are typically just modified versions of older structures. For example, the mammalian neocortex isn’t a completely new structure like MacLean thought it was, but instead is a modification of the repitilian cortex . As the evolutionary neuroscientist Terrence Deacon explains : “Adding on is almost certainly not the way the brain has evolved. Instead, the same structures have become modified in different ways in different lineages.” This fact is illustrated quite nicely in this figure:
How brain evolution actually works. New brain areas don’t usually get added on top of old ones, but instead are typically just modified versions of old structures. All vertebrates, from fish to humans, have the same general brain layout. (Image via Northcutt, R.G. (2002) , color coding by Arseny Khakhalin ).
Notice that the cortex and its analogues (colored here in blue) are found in all vertebrates, and isn’t unique to mammals. What’s more, all the major structures of the mammal brain can also be found in the reptile brain, and even in the fish brain.
So what’s gone wrong here? Why is the triune brain theory widely believed, even among psychologists, while evolutionary neuroscience abandoned the theory decades ago (and never took it very seriously in the first place)?
The problem starts, of course, with MacLean. I think it’s fairly clear that MacLean wanted to find what makes humans (and mammals more broadly) unique. And that desire to identify our uniqueness led him to judge his available evidence poorly. MacLean should have considered alternative hypotheses, such as the possibility that differences between our brains and those of other vertebrates are a matter of degree, rather than kind. And he should have asked whether those alternative hypotheses could explain his evidence as well as his own theory could. This sort of self-questioning is key to doing good science: we need to work especially hard to try to prove ourselves wrong. Fortunately, science is structured such that if we can’t (or won’t) prove ourselves wrong, our colleagues most certainly will. And other scientists did prove MacLean wrong, as detailed thoroughly in Terrence Deacon’s paper on what’s known about mammalian brain evolution.
But the evidence that MacLean’s theory was wrong never seemed to make it out of the small world of evolutionary neuroscience. And for that, I think that some of the blame lies with one of my heroes, Carl Sagan.
The triune brain theory played a starring role in Carl Sagan’s bestseller and Pulitzer Prize winner, The Dragons of Eden . In The Dragons of Eden, Sagan drew on MacLean’s theory to account for how humans evolved to produce science, art, math, and technology – the features of our mind, in other words, which make us unique. Underneath our thinking neocortex, Sagan wrote, is a sea of primitive mammal emotions and even more primitive reptilian proclivities toward hierarchy and aggression. But, he argued, humans are special because our neocortex is particularly well-developed, and so, unlike other animals, we can reason our way out of our primitive instincts.
To be fair, Sagan was honest and careful in his writing about the triune brain theory, and peppered his explanations with qualifying and cautious language (e.g. “if this theory is correct…”). He also stressed that the model is “an oversimplification” and that it may be nothing more than “a metaphor of great utility and depth.” But Sagan’s enthusiasm for the theory was clear in both his writing and television programs, which were, as always, beautiful and captivating – and had a huge audience . It should therefore come as no surprise that, partly by way of Sagan’s eloquence and popularity, MacLean’s faulty ideas made their way into the cultural mainstream.
It’s unclear how to undo the damage done, except through honest communication of what’s known. Evolutionary neuroscientists guessed from the start the the triune brain theory probably wasn’t right, and now they know it’s not right. But the word hasn’t gotten around. And that’s where you and I come in.
For my part as a neuroscientist, all I can do is point out what we do have good evidence for: that new brain structures are typically just modified versions of old brain structures, and that we don’t have a lizard brain inside our mammal brain.
But you have a part to play in this too, since now you also know that our brain is simply a vertebrate brain, just like that of every fish, amphibian, reptile, bird, and mammal. Help make that astounding and beautiful fact part of our cultural zeitgeist.
Peak States ® Research
Cell Organelles and the Triune Brain
Nov 19, 2014
The triune brain and the subconscious
To understand many subcellular psychobiology problems (and certain peak states of consciousness) requires an understanding of the Papez-MacLean discovery of the triune structure of the brain. In particular, the work of Dr. Paul MacLean of the US National Institute for Mental Health is key to our understanding. This material is covered in depth in Peak States of Consciousness, Volumes 1 and 2, so we will only emphasize the highlights here.
In our culture, we're accustomed to recognizing that we have a body, heart and mind - the familiar source of sensations, emotions, and thoughts. In evolutionary biology, these parts of our self are due to separate brain structures known as the reptilian, mammalian, and primate brains. What isn't widely known is that these brain structures are self-aware, they 'think', and have a particular viewpoint and agenda. However, their 'thinking' processes radically differ. The body (reptilian brain) thinks in sequences of sensations, and makes decisions based on associations of sensations its primary drive is survival and reproduction. The heart (mammalian brain) thinks in sequences of emotions, and its primary drive is connection. The mind (primate brain) thinks in sequences of words or thoughts, uses judgment, and understanding is its primary drive. Each brain usually experiences itself in a physical area of the body: the body brain in the lower belly, the heart brain in the chest, and the mind brain in the head. The triune brains are the basis of the 'subconscious' mind in psychology.
For most people, these brains awarenesses are separate from each other, and in fact compete to dominate each other. Dysfunctional family dynamics mimic the internal interactions between these brain awarenesses. A large class of peak states, called as a group as triune brain fusion states, exist because it is possible for these brain awarenesses to fully merge with each other in various combinations and degree. Having all of the brain structures' awarenesses fully fused together is optimum, and in fact is how we were designed to live. When this occurs, the composite brain awareness location becomes shifted. The full fusion state finds the awarenesses experiencing themselves in the upper belly area.
The extended triune brain model
There are four other, less well known brain structures. One is the solar plexus brain. It awareness is usually found tightly coupled with the body awareness, and so most people are unaware of it as a separate entity. Its primary mode is the sensation of movement, and its primary drive is also survival. Another is what we call the crown brain. Its awareness is usually found tightly coupled with the mind brain, and so most people are unaware of it as a separate entity. Its awareness is usually located above the head, and its primary drive involves the body's physical structure.
The last four brain structures require an understanding of cellular evolution, described in the next section.
Developmental biology, cell organelles and the triune brain
When we normally think of brain structures, we think of large masses of neuron cells in the head. Although there are large amounts of brain type cells elsewhere in the body, particularly the lower belly and heart area, the model that the brain is in the head is quite useful and matches most clinical experience. However, the next two brain structures are not as obvious as the previous five. One of them has its awareness in the belly button area, and the other in the spinal area centered in the upper trunk of the body, ranging from the center of the back to the throat.
To understand them, we turn to developmental biology. From an evolutionary standpoint, the multi-celled structures we call organs (be they brain structures or other internal organs) are an extension and elaboration of subcellular structures, called organelles, found in our remote single-celled ancestors. When we evolved into multicellular creatures, nature used the original organelle as a template and just reproduced the same function more efficiently using many cells.
This simple model makes sense but the next jump in understanding is not as intuitive. Techniques using intentional or accidental regression to early sperm and egg trauma uncovered a totally unexpected fact - the prototype precellular organelle brain structures in the sperm and egg are also self-aware! They feel, sense, think, and act in exactly the same way that they do in the adult body, given the constraints of their cellular existence. In fact, self-awareness starts before the formation of the primordial germ cell, and continues without break through development into the adult brain structures.
For most people, the organelle (triune brain) awarenesses are usually fused together into one single &lsquocellular&rsquo consciousness until birth. At that time, for most people these awarenesses split apart into the situation that we experience as adults. Worse, for most people, most peak states are lost during birth, and so most people experience adult consciousness life in a very disabled and partial manner, quite differently than it should be experienced.
With this explanation, another two self-aware paired 'brains' can be identified. They start as equivalent structures in the primordial germ cells, although their functions differ depending on whether they are in the egg or sperm. The one that experiences itself in the upper back at the spinal cord after birth starts as the sperm tail. After conception, this precellular 'brain' is shifted into the developing zygote. We call this brain simply the &lsquospine&rsquo or 'sperm tail' brain (depending on context). The equivalent self-aware brain structure in the egg develops into the placenta, and it is experienced at the front surface of the belly area after birth. We call this the &lsquonavel&rsquo or &lsquoplacenta&rsquo brain, depending on context. Like the sperm tail, after its womb function is over it shifts its awareness into the baby. At first glance, one would expect that these brains would have no influence on adults. However, this is far from the truth - they are intimately involved with the feeling and state of 'wholeness'.
Two more paired &lsquobrain&rsquos&rsquo exist. They are also equivalent structures in the primordial germ cells, although again their functions differ depending on whether they are in the egg or the sperm. They are both involved with structural issues, and create problems involving generational traumas. One of them becomes the perineum brain, so-called because its awareness is in the perineum for most people. The other becomes the third eye, and its awareness is experienced in the head.
To sum up, our physical bodies are composed of 14 separate, self-aware brain structures that are an elaboration of subcellular organelle structures in the sperm and egg. Seven are from the egg, and seven from the sperm. At conception, some of them physically pair up, while others do not, forming a total of nine structures (five pairs and four singletons).
Peak states and the triune brain
In average people, the individual triune brain awarenesses are to one degree or another separate from each other. The brain awarenesses can give up their individual identities and merge or fuse together to form single awarenesses. The different possible ways that the brains can 'merge' results in different peak states with distinctly different experiential characteristics. The Happiness, Inner Peace, Hollow, and Wholeness states are examples of different brain awareness combinations. As a group, we call these states 'triune brain fusion states'. Perry diagrams can be used to show the different ways and amounts that the awarenesses are merging. These diagrams allow clinicians to identity the types and degrees of the triune brain states a client has, in order to keep track of progress in fully acquiring the endpoint states, Hollow and Wholeness. Volume 1 of Peak States of Consciousness goes into these states in great detail.
Triune brain fusion states and probably other states as well can and often are temporarily lost during the time the pre-birth injury is actually occurring. The phrase, "Every man for themselves!" captures the situation between the triune brains at that moment quite well. However, the loss of states isn't permanent, and they soon return after the trauma ends. Alternately, the triune brain fusion state can also be recovered at that particular moment by fully healing the trauma.
The 'Center of Awareness': an element separate from the Triune Brain Model
Previously, we identified the triune brains as being self aware. However, with some introspection, it quickly becomes apparent that there is something missing in the model - where is the &lsquowho&rsquo that is aware of the brains' feelings and actions? In other words, if the triune brain model is correct, why doesn&rsquot it match our everyday experience? True, we have thoughts, feelings, and body sensations that correspond to the triune brains, but doesn&rsquot the Western model of a single awareness with a conscious (and unconscious) fit our typical perception of ourselves better? Even if the triune model is true, isn&rsquot our seat of awareness behind our eyes in the neocortex? To understand the answer, we need to add another element to the triune brain model. This element is the 'conscious self'. I'm referring here to something that is totally familiar to us, as it is the core of our moment to moment perception of ourselves, the &lsquoconscious mind&rsquo in Western terms.
Identifying the 'Center of Awareness' (CoA) of the 'Conscious Self
The triune brain model requires the addition of another element, the 'conscious self', so that one can understand and explain certain types of experiences encountered in key developmental moments. Even more importantly from a practical perspective, this element is required in our processes for healing some diseases or acquiring many of the peak states. However, unlike the vague definitions of this concept found in psychology, in our work we use a clear, unambiguous experiential identifier. We will show a way that people can point at the concept and recognize it from their own personal experience. We call this new element of the model the &lsquocenter of awareness&rsquo of the conscious self, or 'CoA' for brevity.
A very simple test is quite revealing about this phenomenon. Take your hand, and point a finger at yourself, starting slightly above your head. Slowly move your finger down your body until it feels like you're pointing at yourself, at your center of your awareness. By this I mean, point at where "you" are in your body. Continue moving your finger downward and notice how it eventually feels like you are no longer pointing at where you are in your body. Because mine is usually behind my eyes, I just assumed this was true for everyone. This is not the case, as Dr. Pellicer of our Institute discovered when she ran a test on our workshop participants to see if it was. Instead, having the CoA in the head is found less than half the time. In fact, the center of awareness can be focused in a spot from the head to belly, it can be split into two locations, it can be spread out in an area, it can be outside the body, or it can even be uniformly distributed throughout the body.
Interestingly, there is a physical, subcellular biological substrate for the CoA, but this topic is beyond the scope of this article.
- Definition - Center of Awareness (CoA)
This is the area of the body, or outside our body, where we experience our center of self awareness. This is the place where we can point a finger and locate where 'we' are in our body. It can be in one spot, diffused over an area, or completely fill the body.
- Definition - Conscious self
We define the 'conscious self' experientially. It is what we refer to when we point at the physical center of our self awareness. It has a physical basis that is quite different from the biology of the triune brains. This is in contrast to the individual awarenesses of the individual (or fused) triune brains, which may or may not be experienced from the viewpoint of the center of awareness 'self'. In this text, we often refer to the conscious self as the CoA for clarity. Other terms in the literature for this concept are 'soul', 'spirit', and 'self-awareness'.
Suggested reading and websites
- Elaine De Beauport, The Three Faces of the Mind: Developing your Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Intelligence, Quest Books, 1996.
- Tom Brown, Jr., The Vision, Berkley, 1988.
- Tom Brown, Jr., Grandfather, Berkley, 1993.
- Ronald Gross, Peak Learning: A Master Course in Learning How to Learn, Tarcher, 1991.
- Dr. Arthur Janov, The Anatomy of Mental Illness: The Scientific Basis of Primal Therapy, Berkley, 1977.
- Dr. Arthur Janov, The New Primal Scream: Primal Therapy 20 Years On, Trafalgar Square, 2000.
- Dr. Thomas Lewis, Dr. Fari Amini, and Dr. Richard Lannon, A General Theory of Love, Random House, 2000.
- Dr. Paul MacLean, The Triune Brain in Evolution: Role in Paleocerebral Functions, Plenum Press: 1990.
- Dr. Grant McFetridge, Peak States of Consciousness, Volume 1, 2004.
- Dr. Grant McFetridge, Peak States of Consciousness, Volume 2, 2008.
- Joseph Chilton Pierce, Evolution's End: Claiming the Potential of Our Intelligence, HarperCollins, 1992.
- Joseph Chilton Pierce, The Biology of Transcendence: A Blueprint of the Human Spirit, Inner Traditions, 2002.
- David Hartman and Diane Zimberoff, "Deintegrate, Disintegrate, Unintegrate: a Buddhist Perspective in Heart-Centered Therapies", Journal of Heart Centered Therapies, Autumn, 2003.
- Thich Minh Thanh, The Mind in Early Buddhism, Munshirm Manoharlal Pub, 2001.
PeakStates news (RSS)
2.0 Nov 19, 2014: Moved the organelle information on the peak states page to the subcellular psychobiology section. Minor editing.
1.1 Nov 20, 2009: Revised the text on the triune brains to include the perineum and third eye organelles.
1.0 2005: Revised the text to eliminate references to Volume 2, as it did not reflect the final published version.
Understanding the idea of triune brain
The idea of the triple brain of Paul MacLean is based on the idea that there are 3 different brain systems in the human brain , with its own logics of operation, and that each of them has been appearing in our evolutionary line in a sequential way, one on the other. This means, among other things, that these three brains would be relatively independent and that they would relate to each other following a hierarchy, depending on their age and the importance of their functions for our survival.
The reptilian complex, for example, being the first to appear would be the structure that performs the most basic and most important functions to survive in the here and now, while the neocortex, being the most recent appearance structure in the evolutionary line that leads to Homo sapiens, would be responsible for the most refined and complex functions.
The logic that follows this conception of the human brain is very reminiscent of a way of understanding evolution as a process in which the new is accumulating on the old , so that these two parties maintain a relative independence from each other, although they affect each other. It also reminds us of the idea that the emotional and the rational are part of two diametrically opposed psychological dimensions, and that where there is one, the other does not fit.
The Evolution of The Human Brain: Apes and Other Ancestors
4.16.2 The Limbic System in Human Brain Evolution
The term “limbic,” which means “hoop” in French, was first used by anatomist Paul Broca in 1878 to name the mesial surface of the brain, comprised mostly of the cingulate and parahippocampal gyri, the limbic “lobe” due to its ovoid shape ( Fulton, 1953 Roxo et al., 2011 ). Later studies found that this limbic lobe had extensive connectivity to several subcortical nuclei, including the amygdala, anterior thalamic nuclei, hypothalamus, and basal ganglia ( Ramon and Cajal, 1955 ), and together were thought to be involved in phylogenetically ancient neural circuits involved in autonomic and behavioral output of olfactory processing, and were therefore highly conserved across mammals ( Roxo et al., 2011 ). A hierarchical organization of the brain, in relation to both topological location and function, was the predominant conception of the brain at the time. Structures located in the mesial surface of the cerebral hemisphere and in subcortical areas of the brain were associated with “primitive” functions, such as olfaction and autonomic processing, and were considered to be highly conserved across mammals, while structures located in more lateral areas of the brain (primarily neocortex) were associated with more recently evolved, higher functions, such as greater intelligence and more complex cognition. This conception colored the view of the limbic system for over a century ( Pessoa and Hof, 2015 ). In 1937, James Papez analyzed a series of clinical studies documenting individuals suffering from cingulate gyrus lesions and noted that abnormal emotive behavior (either loss of emotion or nonsensical/inappropriate emotional response) was a predominant symptom, leading him to suggest the cingulate gyrus as the seat of emotion in a neural circuit that also included the hypothalamus, hippocampus, and anterior thalamus and other limbic structures (ie, amygdala, septal nuclei, parts of the basal ganglia Papez, 1937 ). In 1948 , Yakovlev added to this circuit to include the orbitofrontal cortex, the insula, and the temporal pole. Paul MacLean named this circuit the “visceral brain” and later the “limbic system,” and suggested that it serves as a relay between autonomic function and behavior and cognition ( MacLean, 1952 ). MacLean's conception that systems of interconnected structures within the “visceral brain,” rather than a single structure, underlie emotion, has been regarded as his greatest contribution to neuroscience. Phylogenetic, structural, and functional hierarchies of the brain were a strong central thesis in his work. MacLean noted that psychiatric patients, children, and modern hunter–gatherers, whom he called “primitives,” all share a commonality of failing to discriminate between internal and external stimuli, suggesting that the visceral brain is less acted upon by the neocortical areas of the brain responsible for intelligent behavior and cognition, because the latter areas are less developed compared to “civilized” typical adults ( MacLean, 1949 ). He later elaborated this into his theory of the “ triune brain ,” which assumed a topographically and functionally nested hierarchy of the evolution of the vertebrate forebrain. MacLean proposed that the most ancient “reptilian brain” is composed of the basal ganglia, is involved in basic species-typical behaviors such as aggression, dominance, and ritualistic displays, and is present in all vertebrates. According to MacLean, the “paleomammalian/visceral brain” arose early in mammalian evolution, and is involved in emotion and motivational drive required for offspring care, reproduction, and feeding. Lastly, MacLean proposed that the “neomammalian brain,” or the neocortex, which arose later in mammalian evolution, is more developed and complex in “higher” mammals, specifically primates and humans, and underlies higher order cognition and intelligence ( MacLean, 1985 ).
Despite the advances MacLean's theory brought to neuroscience, central to his theory was the assumption that the emotional brain is a separate entity to the brain that supports reason and intelligence, an idea following the widely accepted Cartesian approach to the mind ( Damasio et al., 1994 , 1995 ). This conceptual dichotomy contributed to the viewing of the limbic system as highly conserved, and therefore, neural structures subserving limbic function have been largely ignored in the context of human brain evolution. However, neuropsychological studies have demonstrated that emotion plays an essential role in social cognition ( Damasio et al., 1994 Bechara et al., 2000 Bar-On et al., 2003 Rilling and Sanfey, 2011 Powell et al., 2010 ), and it is therefore likely that alterations to the limbic system were crucial to human brain evolution Furthermore, it is now evident that evolutionary changes to the brain, and the adaptation of new circuits and specializations, do not occur in isolation but rather are embedded into ancestral systems ( Pessoa and Hof, 2015 ). As will be discussed in detail later, while few comparative primate studies have examined limbic structures, there is increasing evidence for human specialization.
Another possible reason human-specific changes to the limbic system are not often examined is that brain size has dominated human brain evolution research ( Preuss, 2011 ). This bias is likely due to the significant increase in absolute brain size that can be detected in the fossil record, and in particular, the threefold increase in absolute size of the brain in humans compared to our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees. Such emphasis on overall size can mask small-scale changes that may be important to the niche-specific adaptation of a particular species ( Teffer and Semendeferi, 2012 ). Despite this bias, some early researchers recognized the importance of looking beyond absolute brain size, in light of advances of neurophysiology on model animals ( Kaas et al., 1979 ). In 1968, an extensive review of the comparative neuroanatomy was used to propose that brain evolution may entail neural reorganization within larger structures, defined as quantitative shifts between components or substructures of the brain that occur under natural selection in the evolutionary history of a specific species, and which may or may not ultimately alter the product of the larger structure ( Holloway, 1968 ). This work emphasized that increasing social complexity throughout human evolution likely necessitated reorganization of limbic areas specialized for greater cortical control of emotional behavior. Such evidence for reorganization was found to be present in selected areas of the brain as discussed later, including the human frontal lobe, which is not disproportionately larger than a chimpanzee ( Semendeferi et al., 1997 , 2002 ), but instead linked to cortical reorganization of individual functional areas ( Schenker et al., 2008 Semendeferi et al., 1998 , 2011 ). Other evidence suggests that neural reorganization can also occur within interconnected regions forming a larger neural system an extensive comparative analysis across 131 mammal species, including primates, found significant size covariance of most major brain regions ( Barton and Harvey, 2000 Finlay et al., 2001 ).
The relative scarcity of evolutionary studies of the human limbic system may also be due in part to the complexity surrounding the anatomical definition of the limbic system. The most commonly agreed-upon core structures of the limbic system include the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), the parahippocampal gyrus, the amygdala, and the hippocampus ( Allen, 2009 ). It has been suggested that given the primary role of the limbic system as an intermediary between autonomic functions in the brainstem and cognition in the neocortex, one anatomical definition could be any structure with direct connectivity to the hypothalamus however, the hypothalamus also has direct connectivity with structures that are not implicated in emotion ( LeDoux, 2006 ). Furthermore, emotion is deeply embedded in other functional networks, such as fear, memory, and cognition, and conversely, structures implicated in emotion also have roles in other neural circuits ( LeDoux, 1993 ). Given these limitations and challenges, some have suggested that the limbic system is best considered a concept rather than a discrete set of structures, and that emotional functions are better understood in terms of multiple overlapping neural pathways ( Heimer and Van Hoesen, 2006 ).
While there are currently many unknowns regarding the full extent of these limbic pathways, several neural regions have been identified that demonstrate roles in emotional processing ( Bush, 2000 Kurth et al., 2010 Bechara et al., 2000 Olson et al., 2007 Blood et al., 1999 Adolphs et al., 1999 Moll and de Oliveira-Souza, 2009 Ross et al., 2009 ). We will review these regions (see Fig. 1 ), which include cortical limbic areas (ACC, anterior insula, posterior orbitofrontal/ventromedial frontal cortex, temporopolar cortex, parahippocampal cortex, and hippocampus), and subcortical structures (amygdala, septal nuclei, striatum, anterior nuclei of the thalamus, and hypothalamus/mammillary bodies), with particular consideration to areas with evidence that supports human specialization in the limbic system.
Figure 1 . Human specializations of the limbic system at the cellular level. Anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), amygdala, and anterior thalamic nuclei anterior insula (AI) including fronto-insula (FI) (insula not visible on mesial surface, photo of sagittal view of human brain with outer cortex removed to display insula) and BA 13 specialization is based on human to ape comparisons. OFC, orbitofrontal cortex PI, posterior insula.
THE NEOCORTEX (rational or “thinking” brain):
This is the youngest part of the brain, and is located in the frontal lobe, behind your forehead, more or less. All higher level thinking – reading, writing, etc. – takes place in the neocortex.
Ever wonder why reading a book is initially so much harder than watching television? Because TV is processed in the limbic and reptilian brains, while the printed word (typography) is processed in the neocortical brain.
The Energetics Institute has designed bodymind programmes incorporating the bodymind traditions of Somatic Therapy, Yoga, Mindfulness, Meditation, CBT, Human Biology, Neuroscience, and the Bioenergetic understanding of the body and mind. The clinical effect has been to firstly create a tailored range of exercises which address and intervene into the bodymind, activating the Reptilian and Limbic brain processes. The exercises result in the creation of the relaxed and beneficial Parasympathetic Autonomic Nervous system state, as well as taking a person from “out of their head”, and into a truly embodied state, where the person is present and primarily free from distracting thoughts and anxieties.
From this safe and grounded place, and being in present time, we start to work with a person to resource them with states and sensations needed for addressing any psychodynamic considerations arising from old original dynamics, abuse or trauma creating incidents via Analytical and Behavioural Bodymind Psychotherapy. This work directly deals with distorted perceptions, realities, and patterns of events and behaviours which are often both the triggers and underlying basis for repeated bouts of disappointments and negative outcomes in life.
I personally advocate some Buddhist techniques in my work with clients. The use and teaching of states of Mindfulness, breathing meditation, aware ego compassion practices, and creating resources of safety and refuge via visualisation of protector environments and entities, all assist in the therapeutic work. These practices are also congruent to working with the Reptilian and Limbic brain processes, and stem from my own realizations from 20 years of personal Tibetan Buddhist practice.