an Independent Research Report:
Neurologist Paul MacLean, director of the Laboratory of Brain Evolution and Behaviour in Poolesville, Maryland, coined the term “triune brain” when he proposed that our brains consist of three distinct evolutionary strata (or layers), each evolving from the previous stratum:
· The Archipallium brain, “Basal brain”, reptilian brain, or “R-complex” (as called by MacLean). Consists of the structures of the brainstem: medulla, pons, cerebellum, mesencephalon (midbrain), and the oldest basal nuclei (globus pallidus and olfactory bulbs). In reptiles, the brainstem and cerebellum are the dominant brain structures. This part of the brain is rigid, obsessive, compulsive, ritualistic, paranoid, and repeats the same behaviours with no ability to learn from past mistakes. This brain controls autonomic functions (breathing, heartbeat, bloodpressure, etc.), muscles, balance, and is always active, even in deep sleep.
· The Palleomammalian brain, paleopallium brain, intermediate or old mammalian brain, or limbic system. The old mammalian brain resides within the limbic system and regulates the emotions concerned with the four primal instincts: fight, flight, feed (forage), and fornicate (the four “F”s). MacLean notes that this brain operates in absolutes only: “yes or no”, “black or white”, “agreeable or disagreeable”. Survival depends on avoiding pain and repeating pleasure. The limbic system as a whole appears to be the primary seat of emotion, attention, and affective (emotionally charged) memories. It also determines valence (whether you feel positive or negative towards something), salience (what gets attention); creative behaviour. It consists of the thalamus, hypothalamus, hippocampus, and amygdale and has vast interconnections with both the reptilian brain and neocortex.
· The Neopallium brain, neo-mammalian brain, neocortex, or superior or rational brain. Comprises almost the whole of the hemispheres and makes up two thirds of the total brain mass. It consists of the Telencephalon which includes the cerebrum (cerebral cortex or gray matter, and the cerebral medulla or white matter); frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital lobes, corpus callosum (the inter-hemispheric highway which connects the two hemispheres and carries communication between the two), and the nerve fibers that connect the neocortex to the two lower brain systems.
According to MacLean, each brain (referring to the triune brain, not the two hemispheric left and right brains) has its own special intelligence, subjectivity, memory, and its own sense of time and space. Each of these three brains operates as an individual brain system with its distinct capabilities, and yet, all three units are interconnected via nerves, allowing them to communicate and to work in harmony with each other. MacLean has shown that the highest level brain, the neocortex, does not dominate the evolutionary older lower level brain systems (the limbic or reptilian brains). In fact, the limbic system, which rules emotions, can override higher mental function when it needs to, also called the “amygdalae kidnapping” (a bit more on that later).
Looking at the evolution of the brain, we see that around 150 million years ago, our mammalian ancestors entrusted their evolutionary future to a new and powerful form of arousal, namely emotion. Nerve networks for emotions, feelings, and moods evolved from neural structures earlier committed to smell. The primate brain started its evolution about 65 million years ago. It developed from modules and paleocircuits of the paleo-mammalian brain, specifically those areas of the forebrain at the heart of the limbic system which generate emotions for parental care, playfulness, and vocalization. Proportional to brain size, humans have the largest limbic system of all vertebrates (including the amygdalae), which also means that we are by far the most emotional of all animals (which is why emotional intelligence has become so important in our society)!
What does this tell us about our evolutionary history? Emotions are like aromas, pleasant or unpleasant, because they were designed from an olfactory model. Our non-verbal communication illustrates this point clearly: let’s look at the “curled upper lip” reaction we often display. Pulling the upper lip in this fashion could mean:
· Physical nausea due to a fowl odor; or
· Disgust due to a “rotten” idea – when it sounds, looks, or smells “fishy, fowl, or rotten” the muscles of our face project that emotion as a bad smell. Facial expressions for happiness, joy, or fun all correlate to facial expressions for good smells (flowers, freshly baked bread, etc.).
The evolutionary older thalamus, and its substructure the hypothalamus, are the central processing stations for all our senses, except for our sense of smell, before the sensory information is distributed to the amygdalae (which scan for dangerous situations), and then on to the appropriate part of the cerebral cortex. The olfactory nerves receive input from the olfactory receptors (upper nasal cavity) and relay the information to the olfactory bulbs, amygdalae, and olfactory cortex directly, bypassing the thalamus and hypothalamus.
· Controls autonomic responses associated with primal instincts
· Emotional responses
· Excitatory hormonal secretions (adrenaline, oxytocin, vasopressin)
· Almond shaped neurostructure (gray matter) located deep within the temporal lobes, medial to the hypothalamus and adjacent to the hippocampus.
· One amygdala in each hemisphere of the brain (left and right) which are connected via the anterior commissure which is dedicated to the two-way communication between the two amygdalae. Note that in women the anterior commissure is about 38% larger than in men, which may explain why women are better at relating verbal and non-verbal information more efficiently (what has been said versus body language).
Buried deep within the medial frontal temporal lobes of both hemispheres, we find the amazing amygdalae (or amygdalas) – an almond shaped neurostructure, one in each hemisphere, which is part of the limbic system. The amygdala is a small mass of gray matter, which originated in early fishes and evolved to mediate the evolutionary ancient chemical nervous system represented today by our bloodstream. In modern man it is central in processing strong emotions (both positive and negative). The amygdalae are mature at birth and are very well connected to the rest of the brain. Working through the hypothalamus, the amygdalae release excitatory hormones into the circulating blood. After surgical removal of the amygdalae, growls, screams, angry voices, and other negative signs may lose their meaning and become incomprehensible as afferent cues.
The amygdalae manage both instinctual and acquired emotional responses and is also involved in both conscious and unconscious emotional feeling. Many of the unconscious (autonomic) expressions of emotional states are mediated through its connections to the hypothalamus and the autonomic nervous system by comparing new situations with the emotional memories of past events. The influence of the amygdalae on conscious feeling is mediated by its projections to the cingulate gyrus and the prefrontal cortex (orbitofrontal cortex). Our unconscious mind edits and censors incoming information before it is made available to our conscious thoughts, thus guiding and limiting our ability to think logically. That explains why we react to something (like a dustbunny in the corner that may just be a spider) even before we know what it really is.
The neocortex is greatly influenced by the amygdalae as it receives a lot more input from the amygdalae than vice versa, although the information flows both ways. The reason for this could be because the amydalae are considered reactive, while the frontal lobes are reflective. An interesting article which describes the reactiveness of the amygdalae versus the reflectiveness of the frontal lobes, was published in the September/October 1998 issue of the magazine Psychology Today regarding a study done by Harvard psychiatrist Anneliese Pontius, MD. Dr. Pontius wondered why the pictographs of animals and people depicted in cave art from the stone age are so primitive and without detail. She concluded that because stone age people lived under constant fear (from marauding animals, hostile tribes, harsh climatic conditions, even evil spirits), their brains worked faster, processing spatial information through a sub-cortical neural shortcut which would save them about 250 milliseconds in reaction time – enough time to evade an unexpected attack, or in other words, under a constant “amygdalae kidnapping” state. Dr. Pontius reached this conclusion after studying the art of remaining hunter-gatherer societies in remote areas of New Guinea, Ecuador, and Ethiopia, and comparing it to the art of less stressed, modernized tribes over a period of more than a decade. Artists in the less stressed tribes tend to draw facial features (eyes, nose, forehead) in accurate relationship, whereas artists in tribes who live under harsher, more primitive conditions would produce impressionistic sketches, with features out of proportion or omitted entirely.
In order to interpret subtle spatial details, the higher cortex needs time to reflect and interpret. Incoming information perceived by four of the five senses are sent first to the hypothalamus, the brain’s switching station, and then through the amygdalae to the appropriate processing centers of the brain. If the amygdalae perceive a dangerous situation, it will immediately secrete hormones, such as adrenaline, to activate the body’s emergency response system: fight or flight (two of the four primal instincts). An amygdalae kidnapping, where the neocortex is completely bypassed, will ensure a fast, instinctive reaction time, by directly activating the emotionless, defense or attack reptilian brain; no time to analyze the situation, just to react. From this we can also conclude how important it is to keep any learning environment as stress-free as possible if we want actual learning to occur.
The primary job of the amygdalae are to screen the environment for a potential threat. Neurons in the amygdalae are activated even before we are consciously aware of a threat. In the face of real danger, this is a good thing, however, in modern life, most of the time there is no real danger, leading to feelings of self-doubt and therefore, undermining our attempts for survival by setting us up to ignore that one time when the danger is real.
The frontal lobes are important in two major areas: the anterior part of the frontal lobe is called the prefrontal cortex and is very important in the highest mental functions (decision making, judgment, planning, reasoning, impulse control), as well as the determination of personality. The posterior part of the frontal lobe controls motor functions and is divided into the premotor cortex (modification of movement) and the motor cortex (production of movement). Memories related to its function are also stored in the frontal cortex. This is the last brain lobe to mature, and the prefrontal cortex is the last of the frontal lobe structures to mature.
FRONTAL LOBE STIMULATION
In the absence of an emergency, the prefrontal cortex has the capacity to modify the response of the amygdalae. The information coming to the cortex is not raw perception, but has already been infused with emotional meaning by the amygdalae. Although the hypothalamus is the sensory switching station, where it sends visual information to the visual cortex, sounds to the auditory cortex, etc., that information is filtered through the amygdalae before it continues on to its final destination. If the amygdalae sense danger, it immediately activates the brain’s emergency response system, causing us to react even before we consciously know why (by releasing excitatory hormones into the bloodstream, raising our heartbeat, breathing faster and shallower, sweaty palms, etc.), followed by conscious thought (the information being interpreted and analyzed). People who are able to remain calm in an emergency situation and act appropriately without panicking, and in the process save their and other’s lives (or prevent injury to whomever involved), have the ability to also activate their prefrontal cortex with its abilities to analyze, judge, reason, plan, solve problems, make decisions, and control impulses. What a powerful combination: activation of the brain’s emergency response system (to get us ready to fight or flee) and the prefrontal cortex to help us strategize and control dangerous impulses.
The neurophysiological mechanism as researched by Dr. T.D.A. Lingo at his research lab in Colorado, also called the amygdalae clicking technique results in the ability to activate the prefrontal cortex at will. With enough practice, the user will automatically activate the prefrontal cortex in all activities, including those instances where the amygdalae have activated the brain’s emergency response system. The amygdalae will be so busy activating all necessary systems that it won’t have time for any kidnapping J!! The prefrontal cortex also helps in control such dangerous impulses.
All sighted people’s primary source of input is usually visual. However, the term visualization means “to form a mental image of”. That mental image can take the form of a visual image (like a movie), words, sounds, tactile sensations, smells or odours, or a combination of all.
Before we continue, let’s look at how the brain processes these sensory images: The brain is extremely literal and in fact, the brain cannot see or process a negative. If I say to you: “Stop smoking”, what is the first image that enters your mind’s eye? A smoking cigarette!! Another example: I say: “Don’t fall!” The image that enters your mind’s eye is you falling, then your brain alters the image to one of you stopping or sidestepping. In other words, the brain cannot NOT see or do something. A blind, visually impaired, or deaf person will have the same difficulty in processing negative information.
That is why neurolinguistic programming (NLP) is so successful. NLP trainers can teach you how to correctly provoke the imagery in your mind’s eye so that your brain can help you succeed by sensitizing your ability to recognize patterns and identify people that can help you succeed. An example to illustrate this sensitizing process: You just bought a Honda CR-V and you are so excited about your new car!! All of a sudden, you see Honda CR-V’s all over the place, whereas before you decided to buy the car, you hardly noticed any! Where did they come from? They were always there, you just never noticed them!!
Back to visualization: When you visualize the amygdalae, the literal brain believes that you are seeing your amygdalae. That is why you can feel the sensation when you tickle them with an imaginary feather, and why you have the physiological sensation of electrical currents running down your forehead when you visualize clicking them forward and switching on the prefrontal cortex. When I feel any intense emotion (especially negative emotions), I click forward and experience an immediate sense of calm, a definite physiological sensation, nothing esoteric about it. If my internal dialogue continuously tells my literal brain that I will get sick, then I will get sick; if I constantly fear failure and visualize failure, I will fail; if I believe that I will succeed and visualize meeting the right people and being in the right place at the right time, guess what …. I will succeed against all odds. Nothing esoteric about it: if I feed my brain the right images through visualization, my brain will sensitize me to recognize the right qualities in the people who may help me, to recognize the patterns in events that may help me reach my goal, sensitize me to the right key words in literature to find the right articles and books to read, etc.
We know that people who meditate are able to slow their heartbeat and lower their blood pressure. By practicing the deeply meditative Tum-mo yoga, Tibetan monks were able to dry wet sheets that were placed on their bodies in near-freezing temperatures. They were able to raise their skin temperatures by 17 degrees (I assume that was Fahrenheit degrees, not Celsius). Meditation is not only deep breathing, but also visualization.
This 1.4 kg (3 lb) literal organ we call a brain, is by far the most fascinating phenomenon in our universe and we still have so much to discover about its abilities!
Marie-Louise Oosthuysen de Gutierrez
Mexico City, Mexico
The AMAZING BRAIN ADVENTURE's MOST POPULAR PAGES:
Your Amazing Brain Adventure is a web site all about Tickling Your Amygdala- i.e. turning on the best part of your brain as easy as clicking on a light switch. This is done as easily as imagining a feather inside of your head stimulating a compass, the amygdala. The amygdala is a set of twin organs, a part of your brain that sits right in between the most advance part of your brain- the frontal lobes and pre-frontal cortex- and the most primitive part of your brain- your "reptile brain" and brain stem. By tickling your amygdala you instantly and directly increase creativity, intelligence, pleasure, and also make possible a spontaneous natural processes known as "paranormal abilities", although such things as telepathy and ESP are really as natural as breathing, or as easy doing simple math in your head. The ability to self stimulate the amygdala by something as simple as thought has been proven in laboratory experiments, such as those conducted at Harvard University research labs, 1999-2009, and can be tracked with modern brain scanning machines such as fMRI and PET... Indeed, thought is faster than light.
Other sites of interest:
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Easy Make A Kindle and Your Own Publishing are sites about self-publishing and writing, and how any person can publish materials, print, online, and electronic books. You can drop out of the corporate slave labor rat race and own your own life by writing and distributing your own books on the subject that you know best.
InkJetHelper.com is a web site about escaping from the ridiculous cost of ink jet printer ink refilling- and refilling your printer for pennies instead of $70 a shot. It also has useful tips about maintaining ink jet printers, especially Canon brand printers.
Julia Lu Painting is all about the creative works of Chinese painter Julia Lu, a modern master of oil and water color painting. Julia shares her creative secrets, ideas, as well as her art work.
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