The brain in the gut

I took a look short train trip over the weekend and spent part of my time listening to an interesting Ted talk about the human gut. The speaker noted that our guts have as many neurons — cells we normally associate with the nervous system — as a cat brain. I found more information here: the enteric nervous system — the brain in the gut.

The gut has a mind of its own, the “enteric nervous system”. Just like the larger brain in the head, researchers say, this system sends and receives impulses, records experiences and respond to emotions. Its nerve cells are bathed and influenced by the same neurotransmitters. The gut can upset the brain just as the brain can upset the gut.

One then has to wonder whether the gut, on some basic level, experiences consciousness. Does the gut live inside our body as a kind of inverted Siamese twin?

From there, we might question whether the gut could become intelligent. And whether this super intelligent gut could develop a seething anger at the brain which controls most of the actions of the body. Is it possible the gut could lie there, percolating in its own hatred, waiting for a person’s greatest moment of triumph in order to humiliate them?

Imagine you start dating a wonderful girl. After a few years you decide to get married. You both stand in front of the altar while a priest asks you to exchange vows. As you are about to put the ring on her finger, your stomach and intestines literally burst through your chest, wrap their tentacles around your neck and choke you to death. The last thing you see before you fade from existence is the screaming, panicked face of your lover. Then your gut grabs your girlfriend and flies off to its secret Fortress of solitude in the Antarctic.

I am never one to raise undue alarm, but I feel this is a possibility we should all be contemplating.

1 Response to “The brain in the gut”


  1. John Saleeby

    Oh, believe me, it could happen. That’s why I didn’t make it as a Stand Up Comic in New York.