Functioning Levels of the Brain

The brain is the part of the body that coordinates and controls how our bodies work to understand the world we live in and keep us alive.  Often science breaks brain function down into three regions; the brain stem, the limbic system and the neo-cortex.  These areas are sometimes referred to as the lizard brain, the mammalian brain, and the executive or human brain.   

Here are some of the functions of each area:

Brain Stem (Lizard Brain)

  • Heart rate
  • Breathing
  • Hunger
  • Sleep
  • Fight or flight

Limbic System (Mammalian Brain)

  • Emotions: Love, Anger, Fear, Happiness
  • Habits
  • Memory

Neo-Cortex (Executive or Human Brain)

  • Control of Attention and Awareness (Mindfulness)
  • Override of the lower two systems
  • Problem solving
  • Goal Directed Behavior

In this YouTube Clip, Dr. Russ Harris describes each level of functioning by replicating Dr. Dan Siegel’s hand model of the brain.