Ever wonder how your heart just keeps beating with no input from you? Or your body regulates its own temperature? You can thank your reptilian brain for that. You can also thank it for the last lie you told. 

triune brainYour brain is divided into three, sometimes four depending on the theory, identified parts. To you in may feel like the same brain with no division identifiable, at least not distinct as in the case with toes and fingers or something like that. Scientists and researchers have identified that there are different activities happening in different parts of the brain so categorization makes it easier to study and talk about out in the science world.
Your reptilian brain is that part of your brain and nervous system that includes your sensory motor system, spinal cord, nerves and neural connections, and it is the main system that innervates your heart. It is your ‘ancient’ brain, containing evolutionary information we can only begin to imagine. Your reptilian brain is responsible for things like breathing, heartrate, digestion, all those unconscious automated things that happen every minute of every day. It is also really good at learning to take over general motor skills, this is one reason after you learn to drive you sort of go on autopilot with every little thing you have to do to get from A to B. Your reptilian brain picks up on repetitive tasks and begins to automate them as well. Very helpful indeed! Unless, of course, it’s a bad habit or pattern...and then, well, it becomes very challenging to break. All parts of your brain work together to get you through the day, so every action is influenced by the other actions that are occurring. The fact that your heart beats without your input does not mean that it is not influenced by what’s going on in the rest of your body. Your emotions from the mammalian brain or thoughts from the pre-frontal cortex can stimulate an increase or decrease in your heartrate.

peacock 2Your reptilian brain is also responsible for species specific instinctual behaviors and basic mechanisms of survival; things like establishing territory, ritual displays that attract a mate, methods of eluding a predator, and actions that dominate prey. Researchers theorize that it is the reptilian brain that makes us good liars if we have identified that the lie will result in influencing a positive outcome in any of the above situations. When we feel threatened in any way on a core level our reptilian brain kicks in with some survival strategies, which may very well include a whopping lie or two. The interesting thing is the ‘threat’ is in a sense relative, meaning, of course, when there is indeed a situation of danger that requires immediate physiological response, the reptilian and mammalian brains kick into gear and take over without other input. However, if you are in a situation of social discomfort perceived as ‘threat’ then your reptilian brain has the opportunity to be a little less knee-jerk and a little more devious. It engages your pre-frontal cortex and like a chameleon, colors itself within the current social context to create the most perceived safety.

lyingThink about it, ever have those moments when you were engaged in simple conversation, someone asks you a question and your respond with a little white lie? Why did you do that? Well, chances are on some level, your reptilian brain identified that the truth would be “dangerous”. Now, here’s where it gets interesting because ‘danger’ could mean anything that falls within the realm of the above mentioned instinctive behaviors. So, doing things like telling the little white lie now and again, or embellishing life stories or past accomplishments can be a survival strategy supported by the reptilian brain. If your subconscious brain decides that it would be more beneficial to your social status and therefore ‘survival’ to say you make a little bit more money than you do, or that you are single when you’re not, or that you were at the store when you weren’t, well, you can thank the partnership of your reptilian brain and pre-frontal cortex.