Search results for 'triune brain'

Reptile aliens and reptile brains

13 Jun

I had been vaguely aware of a conspiracy theory positing reptile aliens planning to take over the earth:

“Reptilians are a very dangerous alien species that are bent on the domination of Earth. They are very intelligent, known as evil, have telekinetic powers and have a warlike mentality that has driven them to secretly incorporate themselves into our society for their cause. Some conspiracy theories suspect that many important leaders are actually Reptilians acting as humans in order to help them with their agenda (From as George W. Bush to members of the British royal family).”

What I didn’t realize is that some of these claims are based on the popular notion of the reptile brain.  Now, I am interested, for many years I have  noted with astonishment how the theory of the reptile brain, has persisted in popular accounts of brain science, decades after it has been abandoned by scientists.

Put simply, the theory that humans harbor a primitive reptilian brain is based on fundamental misunderstandings of evolution and comparative anatomy. Popular books that continue to promote this idea are miseducating the public.

I didn’t really need to know about this connection to disbelieve in the reptilian conspiracy, but it is fascinating to see this link between pseudoscience and discredited science.



Snakes and ladders: The myth of the reptilian brain

4 Sep

The claim that we have a reptilian brain lurking below our mammalian cortex is now well established in the popular imagination.


However, this triune brain hypotheses is almost certainly false. Here is an excerpt from the abstract to a paper I read at a meeting of the American Educational Research Association:

“MacLean’s triune brain model of brain evolution continues to be controversial. This paper argues that, while MacLean made a real contribution in his effort to link brain anatomy, behavior, and evolution, his model assumes a progressive ladder like process that is inconsistent with modern understandings of evolutionary change. Rather we should see brain evolution as process of niche adaptation built on a mosaic of conserved and derived neurological structures.”

A draft of the entire paper is available as a pdf here.

Reptile intelligence

20 Nov

In the past, I have criticized the triune brain hypothesis, which posits that we have a reptilian brain in a state of permanent war with our mammalian brain. For me, it is the similarity between vertebrate brains that is striking, not their differences.

Another problem with the triune brain argument is that underestimates the cognitive capacities of reptiles. A nice article in The New York Times, describes the intelligence of reptiles. Make sure you watch the video.

From the article:

‘The field of reptile cognition is in its infancy, but it already suggests that “intelligence” may be more widely distributed through the animal kingdom than had been imagined. As Dr. Burghardt put it, “People are starting to take some of the tests that were developed for the ‘smart’ animals and adapting them to use with other species, and finding that the ‘smart’ animals may not be so special.”’

Psychedelic trips akin to waking dream.

13 Jul

An interesting post from BoingBoing about the effects of psychedelic mushrooms on the brain:

“The findings, he suggests, support the idea that psychedelics temporarily diminish one’s sense of having a firm and enduring personality–and that trips are akin to a waking dream.”

I do bristle a little bit when I see comments about “the brain’s ancient emotion system,” a claim that I believe is misleading. Other than that I found the piece intriguing.


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