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Newsletter of Project Renaissance and Win Wenger
IN THIS ISSUE:
* Quote of the Month
* FEATURE ARTICLE: "The Limbic Brain" - by Win Wenger
* Comments & Feedback
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Controlling Your Limbic Brain's Controls
on What You Can Do
by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
President, Project Renaissance
ABSTRACT: The limbic brain directs the cortex, and directs human
intellectual and learning experience and performance in various
ways - ways consistent with the limbic's biological and bio-
evolutionary role in complex homeostasis (described here in Part
One). In this context, we have discovered why "exceptional gifted-
ness" is "exceptional," and how to make it far more frequent. In
Part Two (May 2003 issue) we will examine a number of intervention
points where changes in educative procedure, relating to limbic
brain functions, can lead to profound educational and personal
--- Part One: How the Limbic System Works ----
PHYSICAL STRUCTURE OF THE BRAIN:
Please hold one hand as a clenched fist. Wrap your open other
hand over top of your fist. Your open hand represents the cerebral
cortex in your brain; your clenched fist represents your limbic
brain. Your cortex crowns your limbic.
The limbic is not a single organ but a cluster of distinct
organs, each with specific and diverse functions. The three organs
that generate and control emotions - the thalamus, hypothalamus,
and the amygdala - are part of the region and aggregate of organs
we call the limbic brain. So are the physical appetite-controlling
structures of the brain, located in the limbic region.
The limbic brain is our main "computer." The cortex in effect
operates as supplementary memory chips supporting the main
computer. The conscious mind is associated with only a tiny part
of the cortex, but the brain operates as an interactive system.
From Ordovician swamp days if not earlier, the limbic brain
maintained balance in our lives, and in our bodies, as complex
homeostatic equilibrium. In the body, as a master thermostat in
a multi-story building, the limbic brain regulates not only
temperature but fluid levels (thirst), energy levels and intake
(hunger), endocrine and hormone levels, in the trillion-and-one
complex systems that comprise a living physical body.
It's fascinating that the limbic brain also regulates our
lives, not only our physical bodies. One small example: what if
alcohol, nicotine, an opiate or other psychoactive drug, pushes
the "thermostat" setting out of position? Equilibrium is then
redefined and a drug dependency set up which is tough to lick.
It can be very difficult to get the thermostat restored to its
proper setting, once the limbic brain accommodates to the
presence of that new substance.
Another example: People with poor self-image may meet
unexpected success and then do all sorts of things ostensibly
to improve their performance but in effect "blowing" their
situation, to return to comfortably familiar failure. Such
behavior doesn't make rational sense to onlookers, but it makes
sense from the perspective of the limbic brain.
A sensori-motor example: A normal person, in a car accident,
goes through his windshield and suffers severe brain damage.
Equilibrium (rest position) for the body gets thereby redefined.
A month later he is so physically distorted that the palm of his
hand is twisted flat against his wrist, a kind of distortion
seen with long-term brain-damage sufferers. Proprioception has
found a new and grotesque equilibrium.
An example involving the eyes: near-sightedness, far-
sightedness, and astigmatism are regarded as problems with the
shape of the eyeballs. It isn't. What controls the shape of the
eyeballs? - Muscles surrounding the eyes. What controls those
muscles? The brain. Near-, far- or astigmatic-sightedness is a
function of how the brain defines resting-point or equilibrium
for the eyes. Correct the brain's definition of equilibrium and
correct your eyesight.
THE KEY ISSUE IS BALANCE:
Our limbic brain, master equilibriator of complexity and
homeostasis in living systems, performs as an athletic virtuoso
balancing act. Attempting to restore balance, to prevent a fall,
elicits from each of us a swifter, surer and more agile response
than we normally are able to manifest. Even someone crippled and
arthritic, if starting to fall, will usually by reflex suddenly
reach out in an effort to restore balance. We can't always
succeed in preventing a fall, but an off-balance condition
elicits more response than our normal capacity.
Emotion is the added energy and response the limbic pulls
into play in its effort to restore balance in an unbalanced
situation. Emotion mobilizes the system to its best efforts.
Living has gotten more complicated since the Jurassic. The
limbic now has auxiliary memory cells in the cortex. They expand
the frame of reference and the span of awareness in which our
limbic mainframe works.
Although the cortex works much slower than the limbic, it
brings to bear far more perception upon given stimuli and frames
of reference. It processes more detail, it recognizes patterns,
and it anticipates the unfolding of events within those patterns.
It provides a focusing system which allows extra resources to
respond to stimuli. The focusing usually takes place in the left
temporal lobe, the main area from which we are "conscious."
Pattern-recognition occurs in the opposite, right, temporal lobe;
anticipation of pattern and outcome are mainly in the frontal
Usually portrayed as opposites, the two temporal lobes are
actually much more alike than they are different. They are organs
specialized for making sense of things, though they follow
different methods for doing so. Consistency is important to both.
The left seeks consistency with linear logic and rationalizes
things; the right is driven to align other perceptions with
recognized patterns. In this regard it has a special relationship
to the limbic brain. As we shall see later in terms of amygdala
functions, "reading" the body in relation to ongoing contexts
determines the readiness of the system to act in those contexts.
- Win Wenger <mailto:email@example.com>
[To be concluded in the next issue, where we will explore how
methods that tap into limbic channels and extend those experiences
into verbal description may offer a pathway to hidden genius.]
To send feedback privately to the author, email to Win Wenger at
To send your comments about this article to
To post your feedback or promote a discussion of this topic:
COMMENTS & FEEDBACK
As far as fractals go, I have been checking them out since about
1988 when Mandelbrot came to the university I was going to. As
soon as I saw the images I knew that there was something powerful
in them, I get the feeling that they are a link or bridge that will
allow us to see beyond our current understanding. This is similar
to the feeling I get with moire patterns. I have not read a lot
about image-streaming but it seems to fit into this intuitive form
Fractals seem to open up mathematics in a way that focuses on the
stuff they don't understand as opposed to focusing on creating
hard and fast rules of the universe. This way of thinking points
me in the direction of things that people consider to be problems.
Moires would be an example of this. Most designers would consider
moires a problem that had to be overcome and would not think about
it much past that. In the practical world we could not focus too
much on these things or it would slow us down, but in the world of
concept development we could see these "problems" as road signs to
There is an example of this in cognition as well. The Panare
Indians of the Oronoco basin talk about being able to receive or
maybe perceive social/cultural information or information about
themselves through music, dance, and geometric patterns. so in the
same way that moving two screens over each other creates an extra
movement (the moire), the singing, dancing, and geometric patterns
of the Panare create an extra cognition.
I think you're right. Image-streaming accesses the subconscious
patterns of our awareness and sensory integration. Our brains are
pattern-seeing and pattern-making devices. We are all part of the
universal lattice, little coherent bundles replicating locally
what operates globally.
There has grown an enormous interest in such subjects, particularly
among mathematicians. It spreads into Chaos theory, recursive
patterns, self-replication, tilings and tessellations. I've always
found it intriguing that the nucleus of an atom is ringed by
electron orbits the way the sun is ringed by planets.
The first exposure I had to moire patterns was when, as a graphic
artist, I had occasion to put screens (dot patterns) into illus-
trations to create a gray shade. I noticed that when I overlaid a
couple of sheets of dot patterns, they replicated a giant version
of the dots, and depending on what relative angle they had, the
mega-dots would change size. I've been watching for recurring
patterns ever since, and it works even in human dynamics, from the
pecking order in a family unit to the governmental structure of a
large country, and to the global level.
I see feedback in sound the same way. I have a question about
audio feedback, if there is an increase in the amount of energy
being used during feedback? There must be. If so, is the
relationship between the amount of energy used to increase volume
during feedback the same as energy used to increase volume by just
turning it up.
That's a very interesting question. I don't think any new energy
is created from nothingness, but through some actions energy can
be shifted around. Audio feedback refers specifically to human
ears, right? Sound can be amplified. That converts potential
energy to kinetic energy, borrowing it from the material in the
amplifier, bouncing off surfaces, setting the inner ear membranes
to vibrating. I don't know how you could measure the energies
involved, and whether feedback loops draw as much energy as
turning up the volume. Do any of our readers have ideas on this?
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