How our "3 Brains" can help us adapt and thrive...

"One of the great pleasures in life is seeing the miracle of a new born baby."

When we are born into this world we are incredibly reliant on others to help us survive. Some animals such as reptiles need little caring for, and survive on the functioning of various survival instincts. Other animals such as a horse require some nurturing by their mother but are much more physically equipped at birth to function than us humans. A baby human being is undoubtedly one of the most undeveloped species at birth and has the longest weaning period on the planet - some parents may say 30 years!

However, we are also one of the most successful species with now over 7 Billion people on the planet. Our brain from birth is making huge leaps in development with around 65% of its neurological development occurring within that first year of life. As we get older the process of refinement occurs which helps to form who we are.

Recent research into the brain reveals that these refined pathways are changeable and has led to the new buzz word in psychoneurology circles called neuroplasticity. This refers to our ability to change these refined pathways. This is vital because no matter what the circumstances we are born into or experience in life our survival depends on our ability to adapt - as does our ability to thrive.

So how does the brain adapt to our circumstances in life?

To answer this question we need to take a closer look at how the brain is configured. Humans like reptiles do have primary survival systems. We also have the ability to connect and socialise but one thing that we have in higher quantities than any other animal is our ability to think, reason and analyze.

In fact, as our amazing brain developed over time it formed 3 distinct sections which are sometimes referred to our “3 brains”. These parts of our brain have distinct functions;

  1. Reptilian Brain - Our 4 main survival systems

  2. Mammalian Brain - Our relating brain

  3. Neocortex - Our analytical and logical brain

Although these “3 Brains” are distinctly different in their function they are also completely related.

Have you ever had a mental blank during an exam or public speech?

This may be an example of the reptilian brain getting in the way of our neocortex. The process can also go in two ways - ie if we are over thinking/ worried or nervous about something it can shut off our basic desire to eat.

In 1943 a psychologist Abraham Maslow was studying human motivation and personality and developed the well known model of our “hierarchy of needs.” If we take a quick look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs it also follows this “3 Brain” concept.


  1. Reptilian Brain = Physiological and Safety needs

  2. Mammalian Brain = Love & Belonging / Esteem needs

  3. Neocortex = Self Actualization

If one of the 3 three brains becomes dominant then it can have a ripple effect through to the way we relate with others or function on a basic physiological level (digestion, hormonal, immune function etc). This is where it can start to impact our health and our ability to adapt.

In practice I often find that it’s most beneficial to follow Maslow’s concept and get the reptilian brain working congruently first. I often refer to us as having “4 Key Survival Systems” in the reptilian brain;

  1. The way you manage stress - physically or emotionally (Fight/Flight)

  2. The way you turn food into fuel (Digestion)

  3. Your hormonal balance (Reproduction)

  4. Your energy and immune function ( Cellular Operating Systems)

I use two key techniques in practice that were uniquely developed to help address these systems.

Neural Organisation Technique - addresses the key physical reflexes and neurological circuitry of the 4 Key Survival Systems.

Neuro - Emotional Technique / Neuro Linguistic Programming - addresses the influence that our thoughts, feelings and nutrition have on our 4 survival systems and health.

If you would like to know more about these techniniques go to my websites

My belief is we all have the ability within us to keep healthy. In order to be healthy we need to be able to adapt to our rapidly changing environment.

But this ability to adapt is worn down by two main things - toxicity and deficiency physically, nutritionally or psychologically.

Using these two wonderful techniques we can go about dealing with the physical, nutritional & mental toxicities or deficiencies that may be making your “3 Brains” dysfunctional.

Then our body can go about restoring good health!

Feel free to share this with friends or family that may be having some trouble adapting and thriving in their life at the moment.


Dr Mark Symonds


BChiroSc, MChiro, C.C.W.P., NLP Master Coach