Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Gut feelings, the basal ganglia, and Daniel Goleman's latest Emotional Intelligence research

Guess what the Mormons got right?

Well, half right (disclaimer: not sure on the other half). In Daniel Goleman's latest book, "The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights", he said something so interesting that I decided to come out of my cave (i.e., living a really social life) and write a blog post:

Lower in the brain, below the limbic areas, lies a neural network called the basal ganglia. This is a very primitive part of the brain, but it does something extraordinarily important for navigating the modern world.

as we go through every situation in life, the basal ganglia extracts decision rules: when I did that, that worked well; when I said this, it bombed, and so on. Our accumulated life wisdom is stored in this primitive circuitry. However, when we face a decision, it's our verbal cortex that generates our thoughts about it. But to more fully access our life experiences on the matter at hand, we need to access further inputs from that subcortical circuitry [where our basal ganglia lies]. While the basal ganglia may have some connection to the verbal areas, it turns out to have very rich connections to our gastrointestinal tract--the gut. So in making [a] decision, a gut sense of it being right or wrong is important information, too."

Turns out, all of our decisions have an emotional component to them. Earlier in his book, he mentions a study done in which a highly successful and intelligent lawyer had to undergo brain surgery to get a tumor removed. This surgery marked a turning point in his life: he went on to lose his career, his marriage, and move in with a family member. However, he was just as intelligent as he once was.

Turns out, during the surgery, a certain part of the connective tissue in the brain was cut in order to reach the tumor. He can't attach feelings to decisions, so he was unable to determine simple things such as what time would be best to make the next appointment for his study.

CHRIST!! Why is our decision making and personality so tied into our biology? One more point for free will being an illusion :/

Anyways, I encourage you to download the ebook or print version of this book. Great stuff, as you can tell.


  1. Hi, great blog post, and you know the connections to the gut (and also the heart) are incredibly important. That's why our language is replete with sayings such as 'follow your heart' and 'trust your gut', and these are not just metaphors. Turns out we actually have 'brains' in the heart and gut regions.

    Recent Neuroscience findings have uncovered that we have complex, adaptive and functional neural networks - or ‘brains’- in our heart and gut, giving scientific credence to the growing body of leadership literature showing how the world’s best companies are guided by leaders who can tap into the intelligence of their head, heart and guts.

    By combining these Neuroscience findings with behavioral modeling research conducted over the last 3 years, a number of key insights have been found about the roles of the heart and gut brains for adaptive and generative leadership. We've uncovered the prime functions and core competencies of the heart and gut brains, along with simple yet powerful techniques to communicate with and tap into the intuitive intelligence of these neural networks. And our work aligns beautifully with what you've written in your post.

    If you are at interested, please check out or our book 'mBraining' on the new mBIT - multiple Brain Integration Techniques coaching methodology we've developed.

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