THE THREE LEVELS OF BRAIN FUNCTIONING
by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© July 2018, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
The brain is by far the most complex and delicate organ of the human body. It is the crowning achievement of mankind and works in ways not shared by any of the higher animals. It is also prone to a great number of dysfunctions. The standard classification of these problems is found in the Diagnostic And Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or the DSM.
A possible way to simplify and understand all these dysfunctions is to divide human consciousness into three types based purely on the evolutionary levels of the brain. These are 1) a mechanical level, 2) an animal-brain level and 3) a human or ‘tuning’ level. Let us explore each of these.
Level 1. The physical or simple ‘computer’ level of brain functioning. This level of functioning is similar to a computer in many ways. It basically involves memory and processing abilities. This level of functioning is shared by animals and perhaps even by some higher plant life as well. Disorders that fall into this category include:
Š Memory disorders such as amnesias and dementias.
Š Thought or cognitive disorders other than memory impairment. These include delirium, neuroses, fixations, the effect of addictions and others.
Š Other thought disorders include factitious disorder, malingering, masochism, sadism and perhaps others.
Š The basic emotions of attraction and repulsion, sometimes falsely called love and hate, are also on this level. Even plants know when to grow toward or grow away from certain soil, temperature or water conditions. While these may not seem like emotions, they are technically movements or motions at the most primary level.
Level 2. The animal or emotional level. Animals share this level of functioning with human beings to a large degree. Animals feel things and are subject to disordered feelings and emotions. Dysfunctions that affect primarily this level include:
Š Mood disorders such as anxieties, depression, bipolar disorder and others.
Š Impulse control disorders such as pyromania and kleptomania.
Š Somatoform disorders such as hysteria, hypochondria and most sexual disorders.
Level 3. The human, ‘tuning’ or spiritual level. This level of functioning is mainly limited to human beings. Higher animals may possess some of its capabilities, but usually not much. This level concerns a unique human ability called tuning. It is the concept that the human brain can literally tune itself to different dimensions of consciousness. It is somewhat like tuning a radio to various stations. When tuning is working correctly, we are present in the physical dimension, we can read situations more or less correctly, and we can tune in or relate to others easily and fully. When the tuning function does not work right, the following may occur:
Š Introversion. This is tuning into oneself, often excessively and in a morbid way.
Š Narcissism. This is also a form of tuning into oneself, often to the exclusion of others.
Š Autism. Some autistic children tune to themselves and seem to tune out the world.
Š Psychic tuning. Psychics and mediums seem able to tune into the realm of dead people, spirits and, at times, other beings.
Š Schizoid disorders, spaciness or detachment. This is common and associated with children and with copper toxicity.
Š Schizophrenias. In this dysfunction, one tunes permanently to a different dimension, often with visual and auditory hallucinations and delusions that can be extremely frightening.
Š Psychopathology and sociopathology. In this dysfunction, a person tunes out society and caring about others. These people seem to lose touch with the human dimension of living. They tune into their own thoughts and animal desires in most cases. They lose regard for human life, property and all human compassion as a result. As a result, they take risks and harm others in ways that are clearly illegal and immoral.
Tuning dysfunctions are the most dangerous, in most cases. They are also the most interesting for psychiatrists because of the rich variety and interesting symptom pictures.
Combination and breakthrough disorders. These involve more than one of the levels described above. Simple combination disorders include brain fog, malaise, insomnia, narcolepsy and perhaps other personality disorders, some dissociative disorders, and perhaps some sexual and eating disorders.
Breakthrough disorders may occur when a lower level of functioning ‘breaks through’ and influences a higher level of brain functioning. Examples are post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, phobias, hypoglycemic attacks, iron breakthrough disorder and perhaps others.
Another kind of breakthrough disorder involves sporadic material from other realms that suddenly impinges upon or ‘breaks through’ to waking consciousness. Examples are psychic or intuitive flashes or revelations, or, for example, hearing a voice from out of nowhere that warns you of an impending disaster so you can avoid it.
One can say this is a type of schizophrenia. However, it differs in that 1) it is random without any pattern and 2) it is not dysfunctional in the same way as schizophrenia. It may even be called inspirational or genius if the material that comes through is of a high quality, such as a brilliant invention that one just wakes up knowing about. A composer might suddenly hear a new symphony that just seems to play in the head. Religious people may suddenly receive a ‘message from God’, for example, or hear a choir of angels. Such incidents are difficult to explain unless viewed as a type of breakthrough phenomenon.
This is the barest introduction to a fascinating aspect of how our brains work. This article will be expanded upon in the future.