Gut-Brain – New Research

neuron closeup and head brain illustration
The head-brain/gut-brain duo

Jim, an astute online friend of mine recently sent me this article. It’s about the work of Elaine Hsiao a scientist at Cal Tech. He saw the words “gut-brain” were in the title and he thought I might be interested in it.

He was right too.

First, some quick background.

In 1996 I became aware of a new article written by a New York Times science writer. It was about new research that had re-discovered a long forgotten second brain in humans.  This brain was not at all like the one we’re all familiar with. This brain was found in the linings of the digestive tract and it was such an important find that it sparked renewed interest in an obscure branch of scientific inquiry called ‘neurogastroenterology’. They also gave this brain a name: “The enteric nervous system”.

To me the real kicker was between the lines. This second brain is a doer not a thinker. It can act on it’s own and it feels… everything! Gut feelings are real things. This is contrasted by the brain in the head that thinks wonderfully but doesn’t feel much at all because there are no pain receptors in the   From that I could visualize an elegant reciprocal dual-brain system no one has ever thought of before. It takes the shape of a mobius. One brain that thinks but doesn’t feel, and another brain that feels but doesn’t think. The head brain is a conceptualizer the gut brain is an action taker. Two acting as one – beautiful.

But here’s my main point. I’m kind of a self-help heretic. I’m working to help people who are in the ‘self-help’ category yet I’ve been a fierce critic of the main methods of the industry for a long time. What bothers me the most is it’s way too head-brain centric. Not surprisingly of course, there was only one brain to deal with.

I’ve read leading self-help practitioners say things sort of like this: “The brain thinks mostly negative stuff and that impacts a person’s success so, let’s teach them to switch-out negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones.”

That’s been the cutting edge of most self-help for the last 80 years or so. But wait; hang on a second. We now know there is a second brain that’s been found. But have we seen any training developed for the gut brain? TM maybe?

Nope.

TM requires a deep concentration of thought. Strictly head-brained stuff since you need a thinking brain for that. I was frustrated by all that same old same old, so instead I made this tool.

(End of background.)

The first thing I noticed when I read the article is that the words ‘gut brain’ are never actually used in the text. I did a [control + F] but nothing came up. Ms. Hsiao did talk a lot about digestion though and in the text it did mention the word “brain” twice but it was always in reference to the one in the head. So, I’m not entirely sure that she’s recognizing the fact that there’s actually a second brain located in the gut or not. The word ‘gut’ is found fourteen times since intestinal microbes are what her work is focusing on.

While the initial research carried out by Dr. Michael Gershon and published back in 1996 did show that the brain in the gut operates the various aspects of the digestion function on its own. Ms. Hsiao’s research added a new twist to it. She looked deeper into the workings of the microbiology of the ‘bugs’ in the gut and found connections to some of the pathology of autism in children. She and her team from Cal Tech have gone ahead and actually sequenced the entire DNA of these microbes and are now saying that, in all humans, there is another non-human genome – the “microbiome”.

Personally, I love the duality reference in all of that. I’m glad science has found something new here that helps people – in this case kids with autism. It’s been almost twenty years since Dr. Gershon ‘rediscovered’ the gut brain and I was wondering when new research would produce some more interesting results. The fact that we now have a dual-genomeinality (if that’s a word) is of particular interest to me. I’m always looking to make more sense of the duality of, and in, humans. This new finding helps me to better make the case for my theory of dual immunity – one physical and one ethereal. One that looks after the body (physical) and one that looks after the thinking (ethereal).

It’s basically this: If you as an individual can have two separate sets of brains and two vastly different genomes, then why not two unseen yet potentially active immune systems?

As you can probably tell my particular interest in the gut brain is in an area where scientists can’t ever go. Hobbled by the requirements of hard data and physical evidence science needs to ‘see’ real things. If they can’t it’s either not science or they tend to call it dark like “dark energy” or “dark’ matter”. Although those two terms are more for physicists not physicians.

What all this means is that investigating the unseen invisible ethereal properties of the gut-brain – the areas where the most potential exists – won’t ever be discovered by the experts in white coats.

But I’m not a scientist. So I’m not bound by such constructs. But I don’t see myself as a philosopher either so I’m not going to offer up just some flowery interpretations of what others have found. I’m going to investigate what’s going on down inside those rabbit holes that have driven better men than me totally nuts.

I know from experience that my work does bring forward real usable results in people who have used my tools. Massive beneficial behavioral changes in those whom I have worked with have attested to it. Things like a greater self confidence, a truer sense of their own life purpose, and the ability to set aside fear and worry and to power ahead with a reasonable amount of renewed vigor that seems to never peter-out.

And the beautiful part? I can now prove it to anyone as long as it’s done one-on-one. (Ready to try it? Let’s talk.)

By the way. This is not your mother’s personal development we’re talking about here so don’t even go there. This is different. I like to call it “Human Potential 2.0” because it’s a resetting of the old head-based paradigm to something that includes, in a big way, the gut brain as well.

Of course, it is my sincere hope that Ms. Hsiao, and other scientists like her, continue to uncover more of the mystery of our brain in the gut but first I’d really like them to clearly acknowledge that the gut-brain, which I see as one of the greatest biological discoveries of the last quarter-century, truly does exist.

I know it does, but surprisingly most everyone else hasn’t even heard of it yet. I guess I have my work cut out for me.

More power to you.

David's signature in what looks-like handwriting. Sort of.

 

 

PS: I’m currently working on a new book “The Gut Brain Balm – Use the soothing power of your second brain to reduce over-worry and quiet the relentless chattering of your first”.  If you’d like to see a sample chapter or two just leave a comment below and I’ll whisk it off to you as soon as it’s ready.

PPS: Need something more? Leave a comment in the box below or get in touch with me personally by email: [cryptex]davidp@mobiusman.com[/cryptex] or find me on Skype “DavidTheMobiusman” but be sure to mention this page so I can recognize where you’re coming from. Otherwise I can’t respond..

Quotius: A Hand-held Eureka

Today I’m doing something a little different. I’m introducing a whole new feature on this blog. I confess I’m not entirely sure what this will become but it has the makings of an interesting experiment so let’s see what happens.

Here’s the deal.

Ever hear or see something that is presented to you one way and then, later on, you discover that it makes just as much sense when read the other way? In the English language words and phrases that can be read forward or backward like that are called “palindromes”.

For example “Madam, I’m Adam” is a well known palindrome. True palindromes are quite rare though so for my purposes I’ll taking a fair bit of  license with it by merely using statements that are palindrome-like. In other words, they won’t be actual palindromes at all in most cases so don’t rag on me if you notice the violation of the laws of palindroming. Please don’t get in a knot about my taking yardage here. No need to call the palindrome hot- line nor file a report with the palindrome police. Okay?

Great. Thank you.

Of course there is an underground lesson here. Let me reveal it for you.

What I’ve done here is created something that uses my favorite metaphor for duality: the mobius strip. I’ve re-purposed it making it into something that it’s never been before.

I call it the “quotius”. It’s a catchy mashup of the words “quote” and “mobius”. The idea here is to dream-up or find some interesting two-part statements that could be split into two sections that can each be read as stand-alone statements. Then I’ll print them on each side of a strip of paper two inches wide (maximum width) and up to fourteen inches long. First half on side one and the other half on side two.

When the paper is joined together at each end forming a circular shape only the words of the first half of the statement on the outside of the band are read easily. They make sense but they are not quite complete. Meanwhile the ones on the inside of the band are, from this vantage point, appearing upside down.

Looking at this construct is intended to be like looking at a problem before the moment of insight. An answer just doesn’t “come to us”. It’s a bit like hearing a part of joke then not being given the punch line. It creates a bit of stress because it leaves us missing something we have a need for: closure.

Anyone would feel at least a little frustrated by that.

Escape that shape!

The next configuration is different though as you’ll see in the video. When the band is taken apart and re-assembled, this time with that little twist in it,  the classic mobius strip is formed. We can now go ahead and read the whole message in its entirety by continuing to scroll the band around until the place where the end becomes the beginning.

Now we see that the entire statement is on the same side of the strip! This plays on the fact that a mobius strip is a strange construct because it only has one side. (Only has one edge too but who’s keeping track of all this weirdness?)

I use this bit of strangeness to act as a three-dimensional  model for what a “eureka-moment” might look like if you could hold it in your hand. It represents seeing the moment of enlightenment at close range.

We “get” the joke or the sarcasm or whatever. We hear ourselves say “Now I get it!” The problem that once stumped us is now solved and it’s all because our perception of the whole thing has changed from a circular system to a reciprocal system.

The Takeaway:

The takeaway here is to create a unique learning experience with a bit of fascination thrown in. I’m a visual guy. As a designer I made things that had a particular shape and form to them. Years ago, when I started to look at personal development, I wondered if thinking and believing also had a particular shape to it.

Eventually I realized that it’s the system of  “alternative self-believership”  that has a shape to it not the belief itself. Beliefs, as we all know, can become part our thinking if presented with the power of a well stated argument. But these are not authentically ours. They are only surfacey belief systems and can be eroded away by another competing argument.

Not good.

To make self-belief real we need hard factual evidence.  Forming the quotius into a band the shape of a doughnut indicates a thinking system that is limiting. We aren’t able to get past a certain point because the information comes to us but then ends. It’s a lot like having a self-belief that recognizes limits and then settles for less.

Yikes! Who wants that?

When formed properly (into a mobius) by twisting one end 180 degrees before joining it we now get the entire story. We get an endlessly expanded self-belief because now the information is  – not just coming to us – but is coming through us.

In this quote by Henri Bergson the first part… “Act like a man of thought,” is clearly seen and understood. But not until we make a critical change in the structure of the band do we get the whole message presented to us on a single plane…

“think like a man of action.”

There is “education” which typically is very head-based and linear. Then there is “experience” which requires action-orientated from-the-gut decision making. We need both but they must be naturally integrated.

The quotius demos this dual reality beautifully wouldn’t you say?

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Do you have any good quotes that will fit this type of application? Please leave me your comments in the space below. I’ll give you a shout-out if I use it.

Would you like to make one of these for yourself? Go ahead. Download the instruction sheet and the master repro art in either letter size or legal size. It’s yours free. If you can’t be bothered messing around with trying to print out this strange two-sided sheet I’ll send you a pre-printed version right to your door. Learn more here.

More power to you.

David's signature in look-like handwriting

PS: I intend to put together a new version every Friday. If you’d like to be alerted to the next posting you can subscribe here. (In fact, I’d love you to do that!)