My Brain

After completing this section, you will be able to: name the parts of the brain and describe what they do; explain how and why the parts of the brain react to conflict; name five emotional states; and, describe what the chemicals in your brain do.

Getting to know your brain

The brain is the most complex organ in your body. It’s in charge of your thoughts, memories, emotions, how you behave, and all the things a body needs to do to stay alive. More than that – it also tells us something about how man evolved over thousands and thousands of years.
Watch the video below to find out more about your brain.

Getting to know your brain

Click on the image of the brain below to see how the different parts of the brain work.

THE LIMBIC SYSTEM

THE LIMBIC SYSTEM
ALSO KNOWN AS

Our old mammalian brain.

RESPONSIBLE FOR

Emotions and detecting danger.

WHAT DID IT DO FOR US IN THE DISTANT PAST?

With the help of the brainstem, fighting off or escaping predators.

HOW DO WE USE IT NOW?

With the help of the brainstem, making us alert when walking through a dodgy part of town.

BRAINSTEM

BRAINSTEM
ALSO KNOWN AS

The reptilian brain.

RESPONSIBLE FOR

Controlling body processes (eating, sleeping, temperature, and more).

WHAT DID IT DO FOR US IN THE DISTANT PAST?

With the help of the limbic system, fighting off or escaping predators.

HOW DO WE USE IT NOW?

With the help of the limbic system, making us alert when walking through a dodgy part of town.

PREFRONTAL CORTEX

PREFRONTAL CORTEX
ALSO KNOWN AS

The mammalian brain.

RESPONSIBLE FOR

Anything to do with thinking or problem-solving (we call this ‘cognitive function’).

WHAT DID IT DO FOR US IN THE DISTANT PAST?

Hunting together and then sharing food.

HOW DO WE USE IT NOW?

Working together to solve a puzzle.

THE LIMBIC SYSTEM BRAINSTEM PREFRONTAL CORTEX

The brain in conflict

Our Monkey and Lizard brains usually work well together. The Lizard brain recognises emotions and possible danger. The Monkey Brain solves problems. Normally, the Monkey brain is in charge. If we feel overwhelmed, though, the Lizard Brain can take over – and that’s when we go into survival mode. We fight, run away or freeze.

Brain development

Brain development can affect the connection between Monkey and Lizard brains, which is key to how we react when we’re in conflict. Watch the video to learn about a few things that affect brain development.

Emotional states

Emotional states are behind why we act and react in the ways that we do. Past experiences affect our emotional states, as do chemicals in our brain. Watch the video to learn how we move through emotional states.

Brain Chemicals

Your brain can produce chemicals that can change your mood. Some can make you happy, some help you defend yourself. This video shows what each of the chemicals in your brain can do.

Summary

  • We have a Lizard Brain (Limbic system + brainstem) and a Monkey Brain (Prefrontal Cortex).
  • Lizard Brain is responsible for automatic, emotion-driven responses, which is useful in dangerous situations.
  • Monkey Brain is responsible for thinking, problem-solving and empathising, which can help resolve conflict.
  • Most of the time the Monkey Brain is in control. When we’re in conflict, the Monkey Brain can help us see the other person's point of view and solve problems.
  • However, if the Monkey and Lizard brain lose connection and the Lizard Brain takes over, we are overwhelmed with emotion and can go into Fight or Flight or Freeze and Shutdown states, leading to more impulsive actions.
  • We have lots of different brain chemicals that drive our emotional states.