reptilian brain 4Fs

The Frontal Lobes Controversy

I’m a big fan of the frontal lobes, but I don’t claim to be a neuroscientist. I base what I know on experience meditating and practicing amygdala tickling. It feels like my frontal lobes are “activated” when I practice these techniques, but I admit there is a lot of frontal lobes controversy out there.

map of the brain

The Frontal Lobes Controversy

Some say the frontal lobes are the “executive” center of the brain. By that they mean the frontal lobes allow you to decide whether to act on impulse or make a more reasoned decision. I’m not sure “executive” is the right word, because many executives act on greed rather than the common good.

One thing neuroscientists have discovered is that criminals seem to have impaired frontal lobe function. Even that is controversial, so I’ll just share this quote from The Brain and Crime: What is the relationship here?

Many studies have shown, for example, that injury to the frontal lobes of the brain may be related to criminal behaviour. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), studies have shown that this part of the brain is responsible for abilities in self control, planning and judgement.

Most neuroscientists agree that the reptilian brain is the most selfish part of the brain. It is responsible for the “4 Fs” of brain function: Fight, Flight, Feed, Fornicate.

reptilian brain 4Fs

This has been known since at least the 1950s and is part of the basis of TDA Lingo’s theory about brain function. The frontal lobes, on the other hand, are where we get our more human characteristics: Thought, Word, Deed, Creation.

The brain is complicated. One area is not working exclusively all the time. We can use our intellect to plan a crime or we can use it to help humanity. Neuroscience and the frontal lobe controversy aside, it seems to me that when the frontal lobes are more dominant, my mind is quieter and my thoughts are less selfish. I bounce back to the reptilian brain or somewhere in-between, but when I feel that pressure on my frontal lobes, I am happy just as I am and more able to feel love, compassion and other positive emotions.

The Cherokee Legend of the Two Wolves speaks to me more than the language of neuroscience. Besides, neuroscientists are always changing their minds. The concept of neuroplasticity is fairly recent. Before that, neuroscientists said the brain is fixed. They said it as if it were an irrefutable fact. The amygdala, too, was the “fight or flee” mechanism in the brain until they discovered the Happy Amygdala. Unfortunately, scientists tend to state things as fact until something happens that makes them have to admit they were wrong.

At some point in our history, organized religions started ruling our consciousness. Then science came along and we thought we had discovered the holy grail. Both religion and science have negative sides, though. Religions become rigid and go to war to convert others. Science comes up with horribly destructive inventions. Some say the inventions of science are killing us as a species and may even kill the earth.

Indigenous tribes weren’t perfect, but they had a better grasp of good versus evil than we do. The bad wolf in the Cherokee legend is anger, fear, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, competition, superiority and ego. The good wolf is joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.

I can’t prove it scientifically, but when I’m in my frontal lobes (or feel like that’s where I am), I’m feeding my good wolf. When I’m feeling those negative emotions, I’m more in my reptilian brain.

I’m not qualified to join in on the frontal lobes controversy. I don’t care to, either. It may be my myth or perhaps more will be learned about the frontal lobes later. All I know is that I’m far happier when I feel like I’m listening to my frontal lobes. I don’t think it’s a coincidence, either, that the third eye is the point between the eyebrows.

I’m happy to let the frontal lobes controversy rage on. I’m happy with my myth and try to feed my good wolf as often as possible. I feed my bad wolf, too, but my good wolf helps prevent me from making disastrous moral mistakes . . . at least much of the time. As Walt Whitman said:

  • cynthiawh

    I so appreciate this. Thank you from your unknown friend in California.