Gut Instinct

The Body Brain

I was listening to a podcast from Shrink Wrap Radio yesterday. It’s a program dedicated to interviewing psychologists, researchers, movie makers and authors about current trends and learning.

The interview was with Dr. David Van Nuys and his book “Mindsight” about our body brain. 

Did you know that your heart, kidney and intestinal tract have a huge and complex network of neurons – a body-brain that operates independently from the one in your head?

Where Does Gut Instinct Really Come From?


Research is now discovering the location of “gut instinct” which is perhaps a contributing source of intuition.

Your gut has a neural network.

When people speak of being led by their heart, there is now physiological research that underpins the idea. The fact that your heart has a brain identifies for us that not all decisions, at all times are made from the head!

It was Dr. John Armour of the University of Montreal who first discovered the heart-brain in 1991.(1) Dr. Armour documented the complex neural processing and memory capabilities of this system. The body-brain (or heart-brain as it is called) uses “parallel distributive processing” that is non-rational, or highly intuitive.

The body-brain gives its feedback a long with interoceptive data (on your internal world: your organs, temperature, reactions, chemical response and so forth). The information flows via lamina one in the spinal cord to the brain stem (your most primal part), some to the hypothalamus (which controls endocrine function – the release of hormones into the blood), some to the right anterior cingulate and right anterior first dorsal area (where you have a representation of your body state). Those reactions then become part of your right brain non-linear processing – your creative side.

Dr. Daniel J Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA wrote about body-brain intuition in his seminal work “Mindsight”. He defines intuition as “Non-rational reasoning that comes from non-linear, non-sequential processing.” (2) This non-linear, non-sequential processing is not just going on in the right hemisphere of your brain (long known for its creative prowess). It is also going on in your body.


1) Dr. J A. Armour. “Neurocardiology: anatomical and functional principles.” HeartMath Research Centre, 2003.
2) Dr. David Van Nuys. Audio podcast episode #255 “Mindsight”

By Robert I Holmes