by Daren Knight
Have you ever felt an innate knowing from “using your head”, “following your heart”, or “having a gut feeling about something”? Where does this intelligence of knowing come from? Although we usually consider the one in our head to be our only brain, we actually have three brains, with our heart and gut being the other two. All three of these brains share similarities in that they are able to independently process, store and access information when needed.
Head (Cephalic) Brain
The human cephalic brain can be considered as the central processing unit of our functioning human nature, with three broad areas of function that we can view with the analogy of a computer. The brainstem could be loosely seen as the ‘hardware operating system’, in that it is closely associated with regulating our autonomic vital life functions. The limbic system can be thought of as the ‘software operating system’ that facilitates our emotional processing and innate animal instincts. The cortex region of the brain can be viewed as running our ‘analytics algorithm’ which gives us the ability for awareness of consciously thinking. While the cephalic brain operates our human nature, it is also always being instructed and informed by our body.
Heart (Cardiac) brain
The heart’s cardiac nervous system contains approximately 40,000 neurons, which pass communication to and from the heart and cephalic brain. Additionally, the vagus nerve connects the heart to the cephalic brain and body. While the cephalic brain will send information to the heart to tell it about our body and environment, for it to adapt its functions accordingly, the heart will also send information to the cephalic brain and our nervous system to elicit physiological, neurological, and emotional changes. When the heart speaks, the body and cephalic brain listen. Another fascinating aspect of the heart and its ability to communicate is with its electromagnetic field, which is approximately 500 times stronger than the cephalic brain’s electromagnetic field. It is theorised that this field acts to pass information to the entire body.
Gut (Enteric) Brain
The Gut-Brain Axis is a two-way communication system between the cephalic brain’s Central Nervous System and the Enteric Nervous System of digestive system. Compared to the approximate 90 billion neurons of the cephalic brain, the lining of the gut contains approximately 500 billion neurons, and research would show that the gut brain communicates to the cephalic brain more than the other way round. As mentioned earlier with the cardiac brain, one of the essential nerves facilitating this communication pathway is the vagus nerve which helps to maintain a balanced state. Another form of communication between the enteric and cephalic brains is through chemical neurotransmitters that are produced from within the gut. As an example, one such neurotransmitter is serotonin, aka “The Feel Good Hormone”, which helps to regulate emotional mood. 90% of our serotonin is produced in the gut, with only the remaining 10% produced in the cephalic brain. It is with this in mind that we can understand how stress can affect gut function, and how dysfunction of the gut can also be the root cause of mental and emotional problems.
In summary, we now understand these three brains that can work independently of each other. However, just as important to our understanding of human nature, we can now also see how they work with each other. With that, it could be considered that these are in fact three regions of one connected brain. It is through this way of looking that we can better understand how the beautifully connected reality of human nature.
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