CHAPTER 9: A SECOND BRAIN AND ANXIETIES

    At one time or another, all of us have experienced butterflies in the stomach while approaching a challenging task like an interview for employment, or when one’s name is announced for the stage as the next speaker. Such fluttering sensations of nervousness or sinking feelings of fear are also felt in the stomach when one has to face something ominous. Has it ever surprised us that though our brain is in the head, such feelings are felt in our stomach?

    Such immaterial action of the stomach is not limited to sinking or fluttering feelings. It occasionally performs another task of the brain, namely, the intuitive action. We use expressions like “a gut feeling or gut reaction” to indicate an instinctive feeling or action. Such expression is not a cliché, but it describes the actual action performed by the gut. One wonders how the gut possesses the abilities, which normally belong to the dynamic entity of the brain.

Scientists reveal to us an astonishing fact that every human being has two brains: one in the head and other in the gut. Dr. Michael D. Gershon , a professor of anatomy and cell biology at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, wrote a book in 1998 entitled The Enteric Nervous System: A Second Brain. This book attracted worldwide attention and praise. Not only Gershon, but a few other scientists have observed that the fluttering sensations, sinking fears, and the intuitive actions are caused by the second brain. These findings have opened a host of new avenues for research in the vast subject of gastrointestinal problems as well as the emotive interdependence of the two brains.

    Scientists theorize that at the dawn of our evolution when we were very tiny creatures stuck to the rocks waiting for food to pass by, we had only this tiny brain. As life evolved with larger bio-systems, animals needed a more complex brain for survival. Consequently, a brain inside the skull along with the central nervous system was evolved. However, the ancient brain was preserved as an independent circuit, which is referred to as the enteric nervous system (ENS).

    Experts have found that the second brain has about 100 billion neurons , more than the quantity held in the spinal cord. It also contains nearly every chemical substance that helps run and control the brain such as the neurotransmitters: serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, norepinephrine, and nitric oxide. Actually, 95 percent of the serotonin in the body is in the ENS. Two dozen of the brain proteins called neuropeptides that act as neuro-communicators and induce emotions are in the gut’s brain. Surprisingly, it also produces benzodiazepine, a drug that relieves anxiety, which shows that the body is producing its own stock of tranquilizers…..Read more….

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