3 Brain Systems That Control Your Behavior: Reptilian, Limbic, Neo Cortex | Robert Sapolsky
- Articles, Blog

3 Brain Systems That Control Your Behavior: Reptilian, Limbic, Neo Cortex | Robert Sapolsky


Okay. So what’s the best way to think about the
brain? It’s insanely complicated. Everything connects to everything. A gazillion little subregions. Amid all that complexity there’s a broadly
sort of simplifying way to sort of think about aspects of brain function when it comes to
behavior. And this was an idea put forth by this guy
Paul MacLean, a grand poohbah on the field, conceptually of thinking of the brain as coming
in three functional layers. The triune brain—and again this is highly
schematic—The brain really doesn’t come in three layers, but one could think of the
first most, the bottom most, the most ancient as being what’s often termed the “reptilian
brain,” where basically the parts in there, we’ve got the same wiring as in a lizard,
as in any ancient creature. It’s been there forever—ancient, ancient
wiring at the base of the brain, most inside. And what does that region do? All the regulatory stuff: Your body temperature
changes, it senses it and causes you to sweat or shiver. It’s monitoring your blood glucose levels. It’s like releasing hormones that are essential
to sort of everyday shop keeping. It’s just keeping regulatory stuff in balance. Sitting on top of that is conceptually what
could be termed the limbic system, the emotional part of the brain. And this is very much a mammalian specialty. Lizards are not well known for their emotional
lives. Part of the brain having to do with fear,
arousal, anxieties, sexual longings, all those sorts of things – very mammalian. You’re off there in the grasslands butting
heads with somebody else with antlers, and its your limbic system that’s heavily involved
in that. Then sitting on the top is the layer three,
the cortex. The cortex, spanking new, most recently evolved
part of the brain. Everybody’s got a little bit of cortex but
it’s not until you get to primates that you’ve got tons, and then apes, and then
us. So functionally it’s very easy to think
of this simplistic flow of commands. Layer two, the limbic system, can make layer
one, the reptilian brain, activate. When is that? Your heart beats faster not because of a regulatory
reptilian thing—Oh, you’ve been caught in something painful but oh, an emotional
state. You’re a wildebeest and they’re some scary
menacing wildebeest threatening you and that emotional state causes your limbic system
to activate the reptilian brain and your heart beats faster. You have a stress response. Not because a regulatory change happened in
your body but for an emotional reason. Then it’s very easy to think of, layered
on top, this cortical area commanding your second layer, your limbic system to have an
emotional response rather than something emotional: Here’s a threatening beast right in front
of you. Something emotional. You see a movie that’s emotionally upsetting. See a movie. These are not real characters. They’re pixels and it’s your cortex that’s
turning that abstract cognitive state into an emotional response. Likewise your cortex, layer three, could influence
events down in layer one. You see something upsetting, you think about
mortality, “One of these days my heart is going to stop beating,” and your heart’s
going to beat faster. You’re not bleeding and hypotensive. You’re not in some—nothing in the reptilian
brain could make sense of this. A purely cognitive state: “Oh, on the other
side of the planet there are people undergoing some traumatic event and I feel upset about
it,” and your reptilian brain responds. So it’s very easy given that to think of
a “three talks to two talks to one” sort of scenario. Just as readily though, one talks to two talks
to three. What would be a case of that? What’s your reptilian brain talking to your
cortex? Remarkable finding: When we’re hungry we
make harsher moral judgments about people’s transgressions. We’re less charitable. We cheat more in economic games. Our cortex assessing the effects of prosociality,
antisociality and altruism and its evolution. And part of what it’s doing in deciding
how it feels about somebody else’s plight is if your stomach is gurgling, if you’re
hungry, if you’re in pain that affects very cortical judgment-type areas. Layer one, this ancient reptilian brain that
should have nothing to do with how your cortex works, having tons to do with it. Or layer two influencing layer three, your
limbic system, your emotional state influencing your abstract cognitive processes. What’s the most obvious example of it? When we’re under stress. When we’re in an emotionally aroused state. We make stupid impulsive decisions that seem
brilliant at the time. Affective emotional limbic layer two influencing
how your cortical cortex goes about its abstractions. It’s not that abstract. It’s embedded in the biology of all these
layers. So on a certain level this interaction between
these layers it seems this very mechanical process, potentially even an unconscious one. How do we consciously have, say, our cortex
regulate an emotion, a limbic two layer? Simple. Think about the most arousing, wonderful thing
that ever happened to you umpteen decades ago, and your cortex is evoking a memory that’s
got your limbic system humming along in some excited state. Or think about—think cortically, or pull
out the memories of—some traumatic event and your limbic system is responding. How about reptilian level? Easy to make it get into an agitated state. Sit there and think about something incredibly
upsetting. Think about some memory that was truly disturbing. Think about mortality. Think about global warming. And your heart speeds up. Layer three in a very conscious way has mobilized
layer one. A lot harder is the inverse: You’re sitting
there and you suffer from high blood pressure and either they could marinate you in antihypertensive
drugs for the rest of your life or an alternative approach, a biofeedback approach is sit there
and think about the happiest day of your life. Think about being in an open field that’s
beautiful. Think about your favorite vacation. Think about, think about. And if it’s the right “thinking about,”
suddenly your heart slows down. Suddenly your blood pressure goes down. Ah, the core of biofeedback is figuring out
what sort of conscious states you can evoke that will affect your reptilian brain in a
direction that’s good for your health. And all you do then is learn how to get better
and better in some stressed hypertensive circumstance. What conscious act of thinking can I mobilize
here at this point that will cause changes in how my big toe’s blood flow is working? And a case like that, that is very conscious
regulation of more autonomic, more ancient parts of your brain.

About Ralph Robinson

Read All Posts By Ralph Robinson

100 thoughts on “3 Brain Systems That Control Your Behavior: Reptilian, Limbic, Neo Cortex | Robert Sapolsky

  1. What about if we practice thinking About upsetting situations, but trying to breath deeply and calmly, so we can keep that peace state when a real bad situation arises?

  2. Reptiles are cold blooded. Nothing to regulate. The truth will set you free. Truth regulates your actions, if you believe the truth that only your Maker can cover for you Himself and remake you again from the inside out by the power of His true word.

  3. Love Sapolsky…more should learn basic human behavior…knowing how you tick helps to understand others. 🙂

  4. I am pleased to learn this stuff. it answered many questions in my mind. It will definitely generate more hypotheses and theories. Thank you sir

  5. The so called reptilian brain as described here would be the autonomous nervous system. It is the oldest system, it is made of slow neurons located outside of the brain and outside of the spinal chord.
    The limbic system is also quite old and is not programmable. Every human share the same system at birth.
    When looking in more detail, the cerebellum is half ass between the definitions of fully automatic vs high level. It is a 3d array of associatives analog switches. It learn everyday, constantly fine tuning the muscle commands. But it is not seen as a contribution in any of the complex brain activities such as thinking, consciousness, etc

  6. Thoughs, feelings, and instincts are the three fundamentals elements of Personality and is mirrored in the brain.

  7. When we were evolving we started a stage of being a reptile like lizard. Almost all mammals might of have been lizards.

  8. HEY NOW !!! DID ANY OF YOU, GUYS, HEAR NOTICE OR SENSE ANYTHING THAT IS COGNITIVELY &/OR INTUITIVELY ALARMING HERE ? MR. ROBERT SAPOLSKY HERE, TOGETHER WITH THIS VERY USEFUL GREAT SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE HE IS SHARING WITH US, IN THIS VERY "BY-THE-WAY INNOCENT & ONLY WELL-WISHING" WAY, VERY SECRET TECHNIQUE(S) & THE HIGHLY COVERT METHOD USED EFFECTIVELY BY USA'-CIA U.K.-MK 6-7 USSR' KGB & NOW DAYS BY ENTIRE MAINSTREAM MEDIA AS WELL AS THIS & SUCH HIGH ACADEMIA SCHOLARS EDUCATED PROFESSOR, HE'D JUST SO MASTERFULLY SKILLED PASTED IT ON & IT HAD "NICELY" DEPOSITED IN TO OUR MINDS-BRAINS SOMETHING IS THOUGHT A 'WELL-HIDDEN' MESSAGE BUT ISN'T & THIS MESSAGE IS NOT ONLY JUST NOT AT ALL GOOD FOR ANY NOR POSITIVE USEFUL TO ALL, BUT IN FACT, IT'S AN UTTERLY SELF WAYS OF OUR LIVES & WORLD ANNIHILATING & DESTRUCTIVE SLOW-TICKING-BOMB AGENDA, IS WHEN HE TALKS ABOUT ALL THESE NEGATIVE BAD & HORRIBLE THINGS – CHANGES!!! THAT WE ALL CLEARLY SEE MORE & MORE EACH DAY/MONTH/YEAR/SEASON HAPPENING IN OUR WEATHER CLIMATE & WORLD BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY TO ALL OUR WAYS OF OUR LIVES – OUR RIGHTS OUR FREEDOMS OURS WELL-BEING – TO US OURSELVES!!! THIS MAN SUGGESTS THAT ALL THIS IS NOT GOOD FOR YOU TO THINK OF THEY ARE BAD THINGS BECAUSE THEY STRESS YOU OUT GIVE HIGH-BLOOD THEREFORE DO NOT LOOK & SEE DO NOT LISTEN DO NOT BE INTERESTED & REQUIRE NOR SELF-ACQUIRE NONE OF SUCH & THESE KINDS OF INFORMATION STRESSES & WORRIES JUST DROP IT & DO NOT THINK OF ANY & NOTHING AT ALL JUST FALL ASLEEP BE A SHEEP &/OR A ZOMBIE WHILE YOUR LIFE & YOUR WORLD & YOU WITH IT – ALL!!! GOES NOT ONLY TO SHIT BUT TO THE MOST NIGHTMARE HORRORS OF UNFAIR UNJUST RIGHTS-LESS INJUSTICE & DESPICABLY INHUMANE HORRORS OF AN ABSOLUTE FREEDOM-LESS TYRANNY EVIL. THAT IS PRECISELY WHAT I SEE THINK & CONVINCED OF, ALSO & STRONGLY SENSE & FEEL IT. AS ALWAYS, EVERYONE IS FREE HERE TO LOOK INTO IT ANALYZE & EACH DRAW YOUR OWN CONCLUSION(S).
    I PERSONALLY THANK ALL & EACH OF YOU INDIVIDUALLY FOR TAKING TIME TO READ.

  9. "They were then clothed in the skin of the serpent that He casted from it instead of that adornment they had"

  10. This guys is a legend. Check out his stanford neuroscience class lectures…spellbinding! Also his guest appearances on Radiolab

  11. Best part is "think about" . He could have used the word imagination. We imagine all day long dictating what our next experience will be. The brain gathers everything in its arsenal to make you get what you imagine. The cortext has a job of making you happy even if sadness is your happiness. Become aware of the following and witness for yourself. Continuous brain imaginations: The need to be right, important, serious, criticize, stand out, special, more..more, not enough, victim, perpetrator. These imaginations or thoughts are constantly going through our brains. Ninety-nine percent of people are completely run by their imaginations and have no clue they can witness, imagine the opposite at any given time thus changing the outcome of their experience. Often it is our self telling us to imagine the exact opposite which is what we truly want. It can be used as a guidance system until we understand the brain processes, environment and the human gift we were born with. I hope you're hearing.

  12. This guy is brilliant. He's the type of person that if I could spend a day walking around inside of his mind I would jump at the opportunity.

  13. feels like someone is forcing you to tell this stuff, its deep thing you talk about it like nothing!!
    the presentation is very poor!

  14. Watching his massive lecture series on Stanfords channel. Have 2 of his books I'm crackin into.. that says a lot. I dont read much

  15. I'm guessing his neocortex is not working properly because if it was it would have told him that his "hair-doo" is not acceptable…

  16. wow every 6 months- a year from now watch this video and you will realize the information you miss and now gained!! very deep

  17. Thanks Dr Sapolsky. I'm excited that I found a teacher of a complex subject with a great delivery. I enjoyed his lesson. Nice, I thought learning without political agenda was of the past. I may search for more. Anyone know if he's a professor (where) or surgeon or semi retired? Easy to learn from!

  18. Not quiet correct , when you hear a loud noise it’s ur reptilian brain that acts first through sensory units and ur heart beats faster as the fight / flight is engaged.

  19. The three layers that destroy the concept of god. At last we know. Where is the one that make people think intelligently and progressively rather than idiotically and conservatively. Probably doesn’t exist and yet some poorly equiped intellectually, not the sharpest knife in the kitchen some like to say, insist that god created men on his own image, probably the one invented by Hollywood, originally in black and white then in colour but from the white race of course, one has to respect tradition, not to say always be politically correct, another tradition from the neo Cortex perhaps, may be the reptilian one or the limbic, may be the three together, union is strength, let’s not forget that idiocy is the biggest production mankind has ever produced without a single day going on strike.

  20. My brain just listened to another brain explain how the brain of all of our brains' functions…my brain hurts thinking about that.

  21. I so needed to learn this. Its like the reptilian is the ego, but it's also the fight flight and fear part. How can we get rid of this. This is how they mind control us.

  22. Kapalbhati, and Wim Hoff especially his recent teaching,
    Showing how we have control over our entire body/ bodies.

    From the autoimmune system to well look him up, Multiple, world record breaker, and teaching for free,.
    Right breathing. Of course i added before his technique, and ancient method.
    They achieve the same thing, i'd say- and the right/correct way, I suppose is that.
    Be well.

  23. We are human not reptilian!! This man comes from Cain the first murder on earth aka son of satan. Read the Bible.

  24. This is the worst explanation of a helpful schematic. Cortex, not the limbic system, is uniquely mammalian. Just think about it: reptiles DO have sexual responses, and maybe anxiety, arousal, satisfaction. You know what reptiles DON’T have? Temperature regulation through sweating or shivering. They are cold blooded. The most basic brain functions control walking, breathing, chewing, and swallowing. THAT is the reptile brain

  25. Reptilian brain you are controlled by Jesus Christ completely, just as all the other brain parts and at all times; in Jesus Christ his name and Jesus Christ his blood: Amen!

  26. Control and Tickle Your Amygdala www.BrainRadar.com Intelligence, Pleasure, and Creativity as easy as clicking a light switch.

  27. Control and Tickle Your Amygdala www.BrainRadar.com Intelligence, Pleasure, and Creativity as easy as clicking a light switch.

  28. Control and Tickle Your Amygdala www.BrainRadar.com Intelligence, Pleasure, and Creativity as easy as clicking a light switch.

  29. Great video but would have been better with diagrams or models to make it more easy to absorb this great information.

  30. Fantastic. Only recommendation is please include images and diagrams of the brain while Robert Sapolsky is speaking. Thanks.

  31. Warning! Something the world should know about David Icke! Can you handle and accept the truth? Back in 1995 I warned David about the high possibility of a reptilius infestation while writing his book on the "reptilians." I told him the tail of the dragon in Pisces (then) was right in his 12th house regulating dark subconscious forces making him acknowledge those entities and unable him to differentiate reality from imagination.
     
    After months spent alone on the Isle of Wright writing, my prediction came to pass and he saw those awful reptilius entities. Note I also predicted he would lose a costly legal battle and warned him of a sudden death (heart attack if he did not slow down!)
     
    He then erroneously associated the reptilius with all very powerful people like the Queen of England, Obama etc. The fact is; we are ALL under the jurisdictions of the reptilius particularly in the right conditions, in the dark, alone without protection, or if legal or illegal drugs and alcohol is abused or if depression and negativity and fear is nurtured for long period of time.
     
    The dreadful fear David experienced seeing those low astral entities made him very vulnerable and the reptilius invaded him pulling his feet down towards the ground (hell.)
     
    All I am trying to do is to warn all the people being fed negativity, lack of hopes for the future, fearing the government or offering tangible solutions… I felt so strong to warn you about poisoning negativity induced by cosmic unconscious "talking Heads" thus, like David does, I decided posting regular videos on my you tube channel to warn you and avoid a reptilius infestation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfrAy1fy26w
     
    While I was his close trusted friend and "psychic" back in 1995 and for years to come, he dealt with another non cosmic conscious "Neptunian" who confirmed David's horrific visions and added her nonsense. There is very thin hair between divine cosmic wisdom and pure imagination. Read the private email exange marking the end of our long relationships https://www.drturi.com/david-icke-the-reptilius-slave/ then sign my petition pls… https://www.change.org/p/david-icke-universal-reptilius-infestation/responses/42328
     
    Share pls

  32. So, Anakin on StarvWars learned to look within & to be selfless in order to dominate his reptilian brain. When Anakin obeyed the Sith Lord to kill someone, he opened an agreement between him & the Sith Lord. This ‘opening’ allowed the Sith to influence Anakin’s dreams.
    Many who are leading this reality know how to ‘open’ all of us to their influence via dreaming or thoughts from the 4th dimension. When we kill our ego or dominate our ego by awakening, their influence becomes lessened as we increase in frequency via thought & action.
    An example: Dorothy awoke in a realm surrounded by munchkins who came ‘short’ of spiritual understanding. She followed the light (yellow brick road) and her heart (red shoes) to overcome her dominating ego (reptilian, green WICKED WITCH). She killed her dominating ego with water (Baptism) as dominating the ego is a CHOICE we make. At (green) Emerald City, Dorothy made it to her (green) HEART chakra.
    Eventuall, Dorothy opened all 7 chakras to astral travel (birthed her astral body, being born again) to fly like a BLUE bird over the 7 colors of the rainbow, except Dorothy wore a BLUE dress.
    This is the story of Jesus, Froto on Lord of the Rings, Labyrinth, Neverending Story, Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland, etc.
    When we meet a human who shames/blames their external reality, when we see they easily upset over politicians, you can see these individuals have been influenced by principalities & Powers from the 4th dimension & dreams. Because, the reptilian brain creates evil. Evil does not actually exist. We were originally ‘good’ before we changed our DNA (apple/tree) to that of a reptilian brain. God always ‘created’ & it was always ‘good’. When Adam & Eve began to see evil for the first time, they saw nakedness as evil, then they saw God as evil. In reality, God could never create evil bc he did not have a serpent/reptilian brain. God did not send Adam & Eve from the garden, the reptilian brain created that scenario on its own. Their children reflected the dual reality (one good/one bad child) they entered; one of hope & fear. Adam & Eve left God from the influence of their reptilian (hormonal) mind & bodies.

  33. Maybe next we'll evolve a layer which concearns interaction with our environment or eachother by non physical means.

  34. This video is more interesting and helpful than the hundreds of others spiritual, "motivational" and whatever else videos are out there talking about controlling, wiring, reprogramming your subconscious mind.
    Just create a flow of thoughts that you can strategically think about in the situations where you want to make a change in and when you think those things you can change your limbic and reptilian brain to a beneficial state for the decision and actions that your cortex wants to stick with.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *