Captain Neo & the Brain Team
Introducing our Brain Team members
Why our Brain Team needs to work together
Would you like to interview your Brain Team members?
Introducing our Brain Team members
Every human being has the same kinds of Brain Team members. However, depending on each person, they may work together in different ways. The three Brain Team characters are here to help you understand the part each one plays in the way humans cope with stress and upsets. A good team always needs lots of practice and teamwork. It's no different when it comes to your three-member Brain Team.
Neo (short for neocortex) is the newest member of your Brain Team. Neo is captain because of its fantastic ability to think, reason and figure out what’s going on inside the brain. Its big advantage is Neo's ability to use words to understand, plan and express thoughts using language. For example, when we worry that something is "wrong with me" (making us upset or stressed), Neo can check in with the other Brain Team members to see if one of them is out of control. Neo is captain over the brain team members because its brain has the super power to know what we think, feel and do. As we grow older, Neo increases its control over how we should react when coping with difficult situations. But Neo isn’t always able to know what the other two team members are trying to tell it because they can’t use words like Neo does. Instead, our two other instinctive brains communicate through brain chemical impulses
. It's up to Neo to question what the other team members are "saying" and figure out what they are sensing
Rep (short for reptilian) is the oldest and strongest member of the brain team. Rep is in charge of our defenses. You might think of Rep as the Brain Team defensive captain who makes sure we protect ourselves to stay alive. Since the first job of our brain is to make sure we survive, Rep is not only very strong but can sometimes issue "DANGER!" signals that can frighten the rest of the team members into letting Rep decide if we should "attack" or "hide" (run away) to save ourselves. You can see that it's hard for the other team members to ignore Rep when it senses something is threatening us. It really doesn't matter whether Rep senses an emotional upset or a physical threat that our life is in danger. Rep's job of protecting us often leads to our getting angry and more stressed to protect our self. Rep's brain impulses are very strong and hard for the other Brain Team members to ignore. Rep kind of likes "going it alone" which usually leads to brain teamwork problems. When we're upset it's easy to just let Rep take over. Our brain's most important job is to warn us when we feel threatened and "seem to be in danger." This is why Neo and Emo may not always be able to use their special coping senses. They just let Rep tell us what to do. Coping teamwork takes time, so sometimes we need to control Rep until the rest of Brain Team can get together and decide the right course of action.
Emo (short for emotional brain) is the next oldest team member after Rep. It has a special ability to care about things and people. Emo is in charge of our emotional attachment to others. It tries to communicate what we humans really care about and what we need to make us feel better
Emo is very sensitive to letting us know that our feelings are upset and hurt. It also lets us know when we feel happy and playful. However, just like Rep, Emo communicates with other brain team members by using its powerful emotional sense to send chemical impulses, not words. Only Neo has language ability to find words to express what Emo is really feeling.
Why the Brain Team Needs to Learn to Work Together.
1. The Brain Team learns teamwork by using a particular kind of training program.
Just like any team, training means they have to practice together
. What do they practice? With the Brain Team it’s called "coping skills." What happens if each member of the team just goes off and reacts by itself when we’re upset, worried, afraid or stressed? It can create more problems. Working as a team can help us feel better. It takes lots of work and practice. What happens when we have a hard time getting over upsets or understanding why we feel or act the way we do? It's usually because some brain team member goes off on its own to make decisions for us instead of working together. Captain Neo uses it very large brain power to understand what's going on with the other two team members. This thinking brain is responsible for making sure all three team members communicate and "listen" to each other. That means they practice working together. Just before we become teenagers it's a good time to help Neo take control of how we can cope with upsets and stress. Neo can understand its brain teammates better than the two other impulsive brains. Neo's work as captain is important since its thinking power is what's needed to make sure the entire coping team "is on the same page" when we are upset. It's much easier to handle stressful times when all three team members listen to each other and work together.
2. When you’re part of any team, the most important rule is making sure you follow a plan of action when you're in a difficult situation.
To do that you need a leader like Captain Neo. But, if Neo isn’t listening to impulses from Rep, that defensive leader may mislead us into over-reacting
to a stressful situation. After all, Rep is an expert whose main job is keeping us from dying. The more upset we are, the more dangerous
our situation seems. No one feels safe if they feel emotionally or physically injured. We are all afraid of pain and dying. Emo, being very sensitive to our moods -- when we're happy or sad -- needs Neo to figure out why Emo feels that way. Neo needs to keep a close watch over Rep and Emo to make sure they don't take something that someone does or says in "the wrong way." Neo's strength is its judgment
that may take time to figure out what the other brain team members are trying to tell it. Neo leads the Brain Team by "asking questions." Neo needs to understand why Rep is sending the whole team "danger"
messages, or Emo senses that something hurts our feelings.
3. Stress very often stays longer than it should when we're upset, feeling angry or sad.
Here's why. The more stressed and anxious we become, the less control Neo has over the other team members, Emo and Rep. Emo is sensitive to our emotions when we feel lonely or upset because our feelings are hurt. Emo may send a "danger" signal to Rep. Since Rep can't tell the difference between emotional or physical pain, sometimes our whole brain and body goes into a protective state of stress
. All this happens because Rep is super sensitive to when we're threatened or in danger. Rep sends very powerful distress warning signals to Captain Neo both when we're hurt physically and emotionally
. Neo also wants to make sure we are safe. But when we're upset, Neo can have trouble getting through to Rep. Neo needs to take control by asking: "Hold on a minute while I check out what experience we're having that you say is so dangerous." Captain Neo has the most challenging job of our entire Brain Team. Rep sometimes "pulls rank" because, after all, it's the oldest team member. Rep, being the "first to respond" in times of stress, keeps the entire Brain Team in a state of alert.
At the same time Neo is trying to figure out if a threat is emotional
, or if it’s a physical
danger to our life. Neo knows that either one can cause us to hurt a lot. So the best thing for our Brain Team is to have Captain Neo lead when it comes to coping with stress, so it doesn't stay too long in our body and brain.
4. Brain Team Captain Neo is in charge of leading the training practice, which is how we learn to use healthy coping skills.
Learning is something that happens after
we are born. Since they work automatically, instinctive brains Rep and Emo don't have Neo's thinking
ability. Neo knows it takes lots of practice and thinking power to learn healthy coping skills. It's like learning any new skill like riding a bike or trying to learn a new language. There's no shortcut. Coping skills require lots of practice. You might think of Rep and Emo as being "impatient" and more in a hurry to take control when we are threatening by an upsetting experience. That's why Emo and Rep are called "impulsive" coping brains. Impulsive means they just can't wait to respond to an upsetting event. They sometimes cause us to make mistakes by being too impulsive. We call this learning by trial and error
. We sometimes make mistakes because Emo and Rep instincts are too much for Neo to control. But Neo is smart because it can learn from experiences. Neo has higher thinking skills than the other team members. Thinking also requires a good memory. Neo is great at remembering the way the team coped with stress the last time. Neo makes judgments
about coping. Neo knows if how we coped with a situation before really worked or just led to more stress. Neo is always learning from Brain Team mistakes. Neo needs to be a strong leader so Rep and Emo don't make a difficult experience even worse. Captain Neo tells the team that it's time to practice more effective coping skills, since the last time a difficult situation happened the Brain Team didn't help us get over the stress! Brain scientists tell us that too much stress for too long can actually harm Neo and Emo's memory. It can even affect Neo's ability to solve problems and think clearly! Emo and Neo have larger memory banks than Rep. So when we know the way we're coping isn't helping us, Neo lets Emo and Rep know it's time to have a practice session. Neo knows the only way the Brain Team can deal with difficulties the next time is to learn from past upsetting experiences to use more effective coping skills.
Would YOU Like to Interview Your Brain Team Members?
NEO, REP & EMO are ready to answer your questions.
Now that you’ve met the Brain Team “stars.” Think of questions you’d like to ask members of the Brain Team! Captain Neo, Rep & Emo like interviews since it’s like being on TV. You will get a reply by email if you submit your own questions to: email@example.com
. Answers to the best questions received will appear in the next Brain Works & Coping Kids e-newsletter
section for kids.
See the following questions to get ideas what you might ask them.
Emo, I want to know what your biggest worry is. Being our emotional brain, can you tell me what makes you the most upset?
“Yeh, I get that question a lot from Captain Neo. Here’s my basic purpose: I worry most of all if I am acceptable and lovable
. You might wonder 'Why is that so important to me?' Well, think back to when you were a helpless baby being taken care of and fed by your mother. What would happen if your mother didn’t love you, got angry or decided that she didn’t want to take care of you. Well, that baby would die! So that’s why all through life I continue to worry that people might not accept or love me. Bullies can make me upset because they know I often worry that no one likes me, cares for me, or wants me as a friend! That can make me very frightened and sad.”
Rep, I’d like to know if you ever get tired being on guard all the time making sure your person is safe? Do you ever rest?
“You know, Rep has to be strong to protect you, so I don’t get much rest or very often let down my guard. For example, let’s say you’re sleeping and a wild animal breaks into your room at night. Well, guess who’s the first Brain Team member to wake you up? Yep, that’s Rep. At night when you’re sleeping I make up stories about dangerous situations. You call them night mares
. But even Rep needs a break sometimes so I enjoy competing in athletic games
. Of course, I always like to win, because it shows I am strong and better than others. I also hate losing, since it makes me feel weak. Rep enjoys being on top, kind of like dominating others. That why I like beating others in a race or athletic game. I need to prove that I’m the strongest and best.
Here’s a question for REP & NEO. Does each of you act differently when you’re in girls’ or boys’ brains?
“You’re right that Rep’s in both girls’ and boys’ brains. But I play a slightly different role in each of them. For example, girls’ bodies aren’t as strong as most boys, so it’s harder for them to run away or beat up somebody to protect themselves
if they are threatened. Boys are more likely to use me when they’re upset by ‘acting out their anger’ to physically
hurt others to ‘get even.’ Girls also get angry just like boys do. But they often use their anger in a different way to get back at others. Girls often need to show they are better or more popular than other girls
. I’ll let Emo tell you about that, since the two of us usually work together when girls’ brains are upset.
“First I’d like to say it’s a common mistake to belief that Emo isn’t very important in boys’ brains. Rep is often more in charge
’ brains, while girls tend to depend more on Emo
to tell them how they’re feeling. Boys often turn to Rep since they’re naturally more worried than girls to prove they are strong
. Girls often stay more in touch with both Emo than Rep because they use emotions and protective instincts in different ways than boys. When girls are angry, Rep becomes excited. But girls, being close to Emo, know how to hurt others emotionally rather than physically
. We call what girls do to hurt each others’ feelings “social cruelty.” You can use this website emotional coping brain
section to learn more about how Emo works. Girls naturally experience more distress than boys when others don’t want them in their group. But that doesn’t means that boys don’t get their feelings hurt the same way. They just show it differently.
Captain Neo, they say you’re also called our “figuring out brain.” I’d like to know what happens when YOU have a problem coping with an upset.
“Well, you know I’m only human. Sometimes I do have trouble figuring out how to deal with sensitive Emo’s hurt feelings or try to control Rep’s strong attack
impulses to get even when it feels wounded or weak. Think of me like I’m a big computer with an enormous memory bank. I can quickly search my memory to see if there’s been another difficult experience like the one we’re facing now. I usually find something in my memory bank that’s similar
to what is so upsetting now. I use past experience to guide my judgment to find the best way to cope with a new problem. I ‘figure out’ how to deal with a crisis by asking questions
of myself, Emo and Rep. I ask the whole Brain Team ‘Why are we so upset?’ Sometimes even big brain Neo needs to guess what’s really troubling us
. Sometimes I’m right and sometimes not. We all make mistakes in judgment. But Captain Neo learns
by its mistakes!”
Parents and Teachers: How to Use These Interviews:
Your student(s) may enjoy role playing the part of a Brain Team member who can be asked these or other questions to “get the feel” of each of our coping brain functions. We'd like students to send in their own questions they would
like Brain Team members to answer. Students will receive a personal email response to questions submitted to them (see below).