THE ABDOMINAL BRAIN
The Edgar Cayce readings consistently maintain
that certain serious neurological disorders (such as epilepsy and migraine)
are caused by pathology in the abdomen. On the surface, this seems
implausible. However, a brief historical review of the literature
and a consideration of modern medical research supports Cayce's position.
To understand the connection between the gut and
the brain, we must delve into the realm of anatomy and physiology.
In other words, what is it about the abdomen that could possibly produce
such an extreme neurological reaction as to cause a seizure in the brain
or a migraine headache? To answer this important question, it is
helpful to review the medical literature of the early decades of this century.
For example, the work of Byron Robinson, M.D., a well respected physician
and researcher of that era, exemplifies the position that the abdomen contains
a secondary brain. (Click here to view an illustration
of the abdominal brain.)
"In mammals there exist two brains of almost equal
importance to the individual and race. One is the cranial brain,
the instrument of volitions, of mental progress and physical protection.
The other is the abdominal brain, the instrument of vascular and visceral
function. It is the automatic, vegetative, the subconscious brain
of physical existence. In the cranial brain resides the consciousness
of right and wrong. Here is the seat of all progress, mental and
moral ... However, in the abdomen there exists a brain of wonderful power
maintaining eternal, restless vigilance over its viscera. It presides
over organic life. It dominates the rhythmical function of viscera....The
abdominal brain is a receiver, a reorganizer, an emitter of nerve forces.
It has the power of a brain. It is a reflex center in health and
The abdominal brain
is not a mere agent of the [cerebral] brain and cord; it receives and generates
nerve forces itself; it presides over nutrition. It is the center
of life itself. In it are repeated all the physiologic and pathologic
manifestations of visceral function (rhythm, absorption, secretion, and
nutrition). The abdominal brain can live without the cranial brain,
which is demonstrated by living children being born without cerebrospinal
axis. On the contrary the cranial brain can not live without the
abdominal brain...." (Robinson, 1907, pp. 123 -126)
Robinson was not alone in his fascination with
the nervous system of the abdomen. At about the same time that Robinson
was discovering the abdominal brain, British physiologist Johannis Langley
of Cambridge University recognized that:
"... the ganglia of the gut do more than simply
relay and distribute information from the cephalic [cerebral] brain.
He was unable to reconcile conceptually the great disparity between the
2 X 10 (8) neurons in the gut and the few hundred vagus fibers from the
big brain, other than to suggest that the nervous system of the gut was
capable of integrative functions independent of the central nervous system."
(Wood, 1994, p. 424)
Langley labeled the brain in the gut the enteric
nervous system (ENS). Although for several decades Robinson and Langley's
work has been ignored, modern medical research has finally rediscovered
the abdominal brain with its enteric nervous system. In fact, research
on the nerve connections in the abdomen is one of the "hot" areas of medical
"To a considerable extent, the new interest in
exploring the ENS has come from the realization that both the ENS and the
remainder of the autonomic nervous system are richly endowed with neurotransmitters
and neuromodulators. Many substances are found in both the bowel and the
brain, a coincidence that strikes most observers as intrinsically interesting,
if not immediately explicable." (Gershon, Kirchgessner & Wade,
1994, p. 386)
In addition to the biochemical and structural
similarities between the cerebral brain and the abdominal brain, contemporary
researchers are drawing computer analogies and using information processing
models to describe the relationship between the brains of the body.
"The cephalic [cerebral] brain communicates with
the smaller brain in the gut in a manner analogous to that of interactive
communication between networked computers.... The current concept of the
enteric nervous system is that of a minibrain placed in close proximity
to the effector systems it controls. Rather than crowding the hundred
million neurons required for control of the gut into the cranial cavity
as part of the cephalic brain, and transmitting signals over long-unreliable
pathways, natural selection placed the integrative microcircuits at the
site of the effectors." (Wood, 1994, p. 424)
To extend Wood's computer analogy of the enteric
nervous system to a neurological illness such as epilepsy, one might say
that the nervous system network "crashes" during a seizure. The linkage
between the abdominal brain and cerebral brain is broken. Depending
upon the severity of the incoordination, much of the information processing
and regulatory functioning of the entire nervous system may temporarily
Consistent with the growing body of medical information
on the "abdominal brain" and enteric nervous system, Cayce referred to
the abdominal brain as the "solar plexus brain," (2259-1 & 1800-15),
the "secondary brain" (294-212), and the "central brain in the solar plexus"
(4613-1). Research into this aspect of nervous system functioning
holds great promise, especially as it lends insight into Edgar Cayce's
view of the body.
Gershon, M. D., Kirchgessner, A. L., & Wade,
P. R. (1994). Functional anatomy of the enteric nervous system.
In L. R. Johnson, (Ed.), Physiology of the gastrointestinal tract
(3rd ed.). (Vol.1). New York: Raven Press.
Robinson, B. (1907). The adominal
and pelvic brain. Hammond, Indiana: Frank S. Betz.
Wood, J. D. (1994). Physiology of
the enteric nervous system. In L.R.Johnson, (Ed.), Physiology of
the gastrointestinal tract (3rd ed.). (Vol.1). New York: Raven Press.
|This illustration comes from
Byron Robinson's The Abdominal And Pelvic Brain (1907). The
nerve tissue of the solar plexus "ABDOMINAL BRAIN" have been colored yellow
for better clarity and red text labels for the kidneys and adrenals glands
added as landmarks. Robinson's class text on the abdominal brain
is almost 700 pages in length with over 200 detailed anatomical illustrations.