You have three brains, this is how to use them

Did you know that your gut contains a neural network that can learn, store memories, and perform complex processes. It sends and receives nerve signals and has every type of neurotransmitter found in your brain. In other words, your gut is a brain!

If that’s not enough of a surprise, neuroscientific research has found that the heart also has a sophisticated neural network and functions in a similar way. So, you have three brains.

Working with these findings and adding some behavioural modelling, researchers have now started to identify how our brains work together, and how each has its own specialisms. It seems that our three brains each have specific forms of intelligence and intuitive functions. Uncannily, the findings are starting to point to specialisms that confirm what we’ve experienced intuitively and expressed as our ‘heartfelt feelings’ and the ‘having the guts’ to do something – plus ‘thinking things through’ in our heads.

It seems that our heart brains play a major role in the processes that we experience as emotions and our connections to others. Our gut brains play a similar role in our sense of self and in self-protection. As we’ve known for a while, our head brains are great at the cerebral activities, like reasoning and language.

There also seems to be a significance in how we use our brains together, with research suggesting that there’s a neurologically preferred sequence that uses their individual strengths. In decision making, for example, the most effective sequence is (1) to start with the heart to see how a possible decision or choice or solution feels. If it feels positive, (2) employ the head brain to work out how to follow through and achieve our goal. Then (3) check things with the heart again to see if things still feel right. Finally (4) use your gut, go or it, draw on the courage that flows from your sense of self and self-preservation.

Another spin-off from this research is a re-thinking of the role and attributes of good leaders. Good leaders must use the strengths of their three brains. They must use their hearts to engage with colleagues and customers, lead through connection, rapport and bonds, not from a position of power and authority. They must use their heads to think creatively to see new possibilities, and rationally to devise strategies, plans and goals to deliver these. And, use their guts to provide the courage and determination to lead from the front and follow through.


For more information on the three brains see:

Neuroscience andthe Three Brains of Leadership, Grant Soosalu and Marvin Oka –

Head, Heart & Guts – How the World’s Best Companies Develop Complete Leaders, David L. Dotlich, Peter C. Cairo, Stephen Rhinesmith –

Using your multiple brains to do cool stuff, Grant Soosalu, Marvin Oka –


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