Do you ever recall hearing that you only use about ten percent of your brain? Well that is not true. You use all of your brain.
Conventional wisdom also used to be that we had a fixed amount of brain cells. So all those debauched nights of our misspent youth caused permanent irreparable damage (even though they were a blast). Well wrong again. It turns out the brain is plastic and regenerative. Things like exercise and sleep can create new pathways and generate new cells.
And now the thinking goes that we don’t have just one brain, but five! And they all work in concert and are the basis of our true super power.
They are talking about how we perceive and process information and draw conclusions and make decisions, and how we think without thinking.
Howard Gardner first talked about a model of intelligence that unbundled our cognitive faculties into multiple categories of smarts in his 1983 landmark book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Gardner outlined eight:
He later suggested existential and moral intelligences for inclusion for a total of ten.
Gardner laid out a set of criteria for determining whether an ability should be considered a distinct form of intelligence. These include the isolating the behavior, a developmental process, and the existence of savants, prodigies, and other exceptional people.
This theory of multiple intelligences maps to various cognitive functions of our multiple brains.
Harnessing our Wisdom
It turns out we have five functional brains that we can call upon, if we acknowledge their existence and attune ourselves to their messages.
We have innate wisdom that is the cumulative product of eons of evolutionary processes that have evolved to make us homo sapiens. Homo Sapiens is our formal name as a species. All living things are given a name composed of two Latin parts.
This system is called binomial nomenclature. A Swedish botanist named Carl Linnaeus invented the system and he named lots and lots of living things, including us in 1758.
The Latin noun homo means “human being”, while sapiens means “discerning, wise, sensible”.
The first step in managing your five brains is realizing that you have five brains.
And as a species we may have untapped potential to be more discerning and sensible if we balance the wisdom from our five brains.
Our five brains are: three in our head, our heart and our gut.
Science has began to catch up with poetry and common sense with recent research findings that acknowledge the heart and the gut as having complex neural network systems that function as brains and contribute to us being discerning, wise, and sensible.
Phrases like “listen to your heart” and “trust your gut” are very viable advice from a neurophysiology standpoint.
Poets are always ahead of science; all the great discoveries of science have been stated before in poetry.
- Oscar Wilde
Break it down
Lets breakdown each of our five brains:
The architecture of the brains that reside in our skull is such that it is actually three distinct brains each with its own structure and wiring.
The newest brain in our evolution is the neocortex or thinking brain. It appears to have emerged about seventy thousand years ago and is the organ that made the great leap for humanity. Check out the book Sapiens for a history of the development of us from this cognitive explosion. Among other functions our neocortex gathers information, processes language, and makes synaptic connections.
The limbic brain is our emotional brain. Emotions are essentially a chemical cocktail released in the limbic brain. This is where memories reside. The limbic brain system includes the amygdala and the hippocampus. The amygdala is the emotion center of the brain, while the hippocampus plays an essential role in the formation of memories about past experiences.
The third head brain is the cerebellum. This is our reptilian brain. It is the seat of the unconscious and deals with fight or flight survival issues. It is also the seat of motor control and motor, or kinesthetic, learning.
In the early 1990s, researchers reported that our hearts contain a complex neural network that functions as a brain. This is known as the cardiac brain. The heart is the first organ to form during embryogenesis and it dialogues with our head-brains.
The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of… We know the truth not only by the reason, but by the heart.
- Blaise Pascal
In the late 1990s research was published that showed our gut also has a fully functional neural network. This is called the enteric brain or gut brain and uses similar neurotransmitters found in the brain residing in our skulls.
Heuristics are short cuts we use to process information quickly and make decisions. Heuristics rely on trusting the gut and heart and not deliberating too much with the head.
If something just doesn’t feel right, trust that feeling and don’t try to think your way into rationalizing the decision because it holds some perceived allure. You could be making a costly mistake. I think we can all recall some decisions where we knew in our gut it was wrong but we went ahead anyway after letting our minds convince us. Stupid head brain.
Is a fictional comic character and member of the Legion of Super Heroes. He has industrial-strength cognitive powers.
It turns out we are all Brainiac 5!
Learn to listen deeply and bring your vast intelligence to bear in your decision making, problem solving and understanding.