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The Triune Brain; Emotions, Instincts and Rational Behavior

Updated on May 7, 2013

The Triune Brain; Do not let Emotions and Instincts get the better of you !

The division of the brain into three parts was suggested by Paul Maclean based on an evolutionary perspective. At the core is the old 'Reptilian' brain which is responsible for stereotyped behavior necessary for survival of the species. It usually revolves around the four F`s, Feeding, Fighting, Fleeing and Fertility or reproduction. The reptilian brain is made up of primarily the upper brain stem comprising the hypothalamus, basal ganglia and part of the olfactory system. Intimately wrapped around this core is the 'Paleomammalian' brain called the Limbic system. It is responsible for emotion and motivation as well as learning and memory. The third and outer portion is the 'Neomammalian' brain. It consists of the Neocortex and the connected Thalamus. It is responsible for complex stimulus analysis, abstract and rational thought, language, introspection and self-awareness. It is the source of our insights, plans, reasons, worries and invents.

As man evolved he has become 'Civilized' with responsible and rational behavior. However it has been suggested that a breakdown in communication among the various parts of the triune brain is responsible for 'Pathological behavior'. In truly evolved and civilized persons, whose 'Neocortex' is fully developed, there may not be any pathological behavior even with extreme provocation and dire circumstances, in their entire life. The Neocortex and the Limbic system are intimately connected through neural networks and neurotransmitters. When a person is emotionally aroused, as in hate, jealousy, anger, hurt etc there is a temporary blockade of the link between the neocortex and the limbic system and an outburst of emotion results. The rational mind, though conscious of the event is incapable of bringing the behavior under control. The paleomammalian and reptilian brains take over fully with catastrophic and sometimes horrific consequences, as we see in murders, rapes, arson, massacres, genocide etc. Alcohol and other drugs are known to disrupt the neural connections between the Limbic system and the Neocortex with predictable behavior after intake of the drug.

It is important to further advance our civilization to a point where the rational mind or the Neocortex is fully in control of the brain and mind. It calls for a lot of hard work and good will !


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