Trust your gut is old advice, and the saying that your gut is your second brain is scientifically sound as well. For example: Did you know you have functioning neurons in your intestines about a hundred million of them? Food scientist Heribert Watzke tells you more about the brain in your gut and I encourage you to watch it.
Parts of our body do essential work processing information (remember your gut has millions of neurons) and our gut, has a set of neural net processors that function like a computer. But there is a difference that we have to make from normal computers and those we have in our brain & gut.
The PCs we have at home have linear processors, and they can do all sorts of things quickly, but the computers we have in our brain and gut are those that act in a spiderweb network called parallel distributed processing (PDP)
We have these PDP models that are in our intestines and around our heart. So the feelings we feel in our heart and gut are not just metaphors but instead really sophisticated processors.
How Does the Gut Connect to the Brain?
This information gets then carried from the intestines, heart, muscles, and bones upward through the spinal cord.
Part of this information goes to the deepest part of the brain (the brainstem) and influences the heart rate, respiration, and other processes like that.
Lamina 1 data goes to two aspects of the prefrontal cortex. The first one is a very important area called the insula. The other one goes to the anterior cingulate.
Gut Feelings and Self-Awareness
Given that the body plays an important role in decision-making, how does this relate to self-awareness?
The signals from our guts have their primary input in the right hemisphere. Which is also the primary site for body awareness and awareness of raw, spontaneous, non-rational information.
The left, is more distant from the body and analyzes the data it perceives. It cuts it into pieces, creates categories, and looks for distinctions.
You could say that the left is digital and the right is analog, The left sees the details; the right sees the bigger picture.
Should You Listen to Your Gut?
When I say that it’s important to listen to your gut, I don’t necessarily mean you should respond to it directly. As with any data source, it’s important to analyze the input, and not to respond to it blindly.
A Test Of The Gut Instinct
A 2011 study revealed how the body is able to communicate intuitively with the mind by dealing out a card game. They created a game based on no obvious strategy & told the participants to rely on their instincts or how they called it “their hunches”.
Each participant was hooked up to a heart monitor and a finger sensor to measure sweat secretion. Most of the players figured out how to improve and eventually win the game, and what’s interesting is that the quality of the advice that people’s bodies gave them varied.
Which means that some people’s gut feelings were spot on, so they mastered the card game quicker and other people’s feelings told them exactly the wrong moves to make, so they learned slowly or never found out how to win.
“We often talk about intuition coming from the body following our gut instincts and trusting our hearts,” the study’s coauthor Barnaby D. Dunn, of the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, UK, said in a press release. “What happens in our bodies really does appear to influence what goes in our minds. We should be careful about following these gut instincts, however, as sometimes they help and sometimes they hinder our decision making.”
Instinct & Intuition
I wanted to include this because those two are not the same thing altough people think they are.
The word instinct indicates that it’s the body’s biological tendency to make one choice over another. It is the innate inclination toward a particular behavior that typically relies on a pattern of behavior in response to certain stimuli.
It’s engraved in us to know when to run from perceived danger, which is also known as the “flight or fight” response. It is the so called “sixth sense” we have behind the five testable ones.
On the other side, we have the word intuition which is formed by a collection of memories, experiences, and beliefs. And means to have the ability to acquire knowledge without proof, reasoning or evidence.
The intuitive system is hardwired to the human species.
It’s the mindless thought process that doesn’t require analysis or deep thinking.
How does this relate to gut feeling?
Well, the gut feeling can be silenced.
When humans are forced or denied certain feelings during their stages of mental, physical, and emotional growth, guts can be wrong.
Overwhelming stimuli for example can make it difficult for a person to see the decision in front of them with clarity.
Closing thoughts and a Interesting thought
So my theory is (considering that you have seen the video by now) that if we changed so much by learning how to cook and prepare food. What would be the next step?
If food impacts our evolution on such a high level wouldn’t it be possible to develop new ways to prepare food? And if so what kind of an impact would that have in the long-run?
What comes after cooking the food?
I know that we already use Liquid Nitrogen to “cook” our food which is fascinating. But what kind of impact would that have in the long-run? Would it change our brains/guts over a long period of time? If so how? I didn’t find any answers to that as of now but I wanted to throw this idea around so let me know what you think.
I hope this helped you to understand the relationship between your gut and your brain a bit better.
The key to understanding our brains is by remembering humans are animals, which are born with a certain toolbox full of strategies and social impetuses to help us survive.
As always thanks for reading and until next time.
P.S. If you liked this post then you’ll like my books as well. You can get them on Amazon.