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What’s the best way to think about the brain? While most of us think of it as a dense gray matter that’s separate from the physical body, that actually couldn’t be further from the truth. Our brain is made up of 3 layers, and each layer not only directly impacts the other, but has control over the physical body and how you feel.
The 3 functional layers of the brain are the reptilian brain, the limbic system, and the cerebral cortex. The reptilian brain controls the regulatory systems in your body like hormones, body temperature, blood pressure, and even hunger. The limbic system is the emotional function of your brain, making you feel fear, anger, joy, or gratitude. Finally, the cerebral cortex is the most evolved part of the brain that oversees impulse control, decision making, and long-term planning.
With a better understanding of how each part of the brain functions, we can have more mindful thoughts that will influence more favorable decision-making and outcomes in life. For example, when you think of your favorite memory or something that makes you happy, your reptilian brain will quickly cool down your body and even lower your blood pressure. This can then lead to feeling less stressed, and finding more joy throughout the day.
About Robert M. Sapolsky:
Robert M. Sapolsky holds degrees from Harvard and Rockefeller Universities and is currently a Professor of Biology and Neurology at Stanford University and a Research Associate with the Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya. His most recent book is Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst.
Read more of our stories on the reptilian brain:
Neurohacking: how to upgrade your mental abilities
Hack your brain for better problem solving
Brain mapping: explained
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