The Animal Brain and Behavior

Link to
2007 Revised Jan 15th 2012
Animals demonstrate aspects of our own personality that are hidden from us.  Our
behavior goes back to distant ancestors that had to decide to act or not to act.  
Tunicate larva, the baby sea squirts, swim around in the sea and then attach
themselves to a solid object, loose their ability to swim and become a big sack of
digestive organs that filters food out of the sea.  

The Greeks had a myth that on Mount Olympus, there were pairs of gods and
goddesses that sat around a great table.  One pair was Artemis and Apollo, god of
the sun and goddess of the moon.  Apollo liked to be seen and was a god of
wisdom and music.  Artemis did not like to be seen.  She was a goddess of nature
and the night.  In this pairing we see some of the basic behavioral tendencies of
animals.  Some feed at night and others in the day.  Some will hide and others will
display themselves.  The ancient polarity between swimming off in the sea and
settling down is repeated over and over again in various ways, between Ares the
god of fighting and Aphrodite, the goddess of love, between Poseidon, god of sea
voyages and Demeter, goddess of the home village fields, between Hermes, the
god that talks and carries messages, and Hestia the goddess that stays at home
and listens by the hearth, between Zeus, the ruling god that roams looking for love,
and Hera who tries to undo his roaming ways, between Athena who thinks and
teaches and plans and Hephaestus who carries out his plans in making clever

These behavior polarities are reflected in polar tendencies in the nervous system
itself: between central nervous system and autonomic nervous system (viscera),
between stimulus (monitored by sensory areas in the posterior cerebral cortex and
in the parietal sensory strip along the central sulcus) and response (motor area of
the cerebrum), between parasympathetic and sympathetic parts of the autonomic
nervous system, between fight and flight, rest and excitation, pleasure and pain,
motor facilitation and motor inhibition, sleep and wakefulness.  Some of these
polarities are reflected in structural differences: right hemisphere of the cerebrum
against left hemisphere, motor cortex against somatosensory, frontal lobes against
posterior lobes, parietal lobes against temporal lobes, motor areas against
neighboring inhibition areas, etc..

Our mythology reflects these polarities.  As we move forward in the signs of the
Zodiac, we move from Cancer (ruled by the Moon), to Leo (ruled by the Sun) to
Virgo (ruled by Mercury) to Libra (ruled by Venus), to Scorpio (ruled by Mars and
Pluto), to Sagittarius (ruled by Jupiter) to Capricorn (ruled by Saturn) to Aquarius
(ruled by Uranus) to Pisces (ruled by Neptune) to Aries (ruled by Mars and Pluto).  
This symbolizes the move from physiological functions controlled by lower brain
stem and autonomic nervous system (Moon) to sensory monitoring functions
controlled by the reticulate system, thalamus, and upper central nervous system
(Sun) to communication monitoring listening systems in the left temporal lobe
(Mercury), sensory monitoring systems in the left parietal (Venus), response
monitoring motor areas in the left motor regions (Mars), and planning activities
controlling these motor responses in the frontal lobes (Jupiter), inhibition and
evaluation of plans in prefrontal areas (Saturn), decision making functions and
sense of self in the underlying cingulate lobes (Uranus), memory and life story
records in hippocampus and associated temporal lobes (Neptune) and emotional
reactions in associated amygdala (Pluto).

In respect to animal behavior, we have the polarity between the invertebrate (Moon)
and the vertebrate (Sun), between the touch based sensitive skin of the amphibian
(Venus) and the instant motor response of the reptile (Mars), between the fear
based response of the lower mammal (Saturn) and the tool making explorations of
the great ape (Jupiter).  The deep hidden aspects of the motor response in reptile
and bird (amygdala and basal ganglia) are symbolized by Pluto.  The polar
opposite  is found in Neptune, the monotreme, the platypus and the exploration of
its watery world (hippocampus and rhinencephalon).  Uranus, right brain sense of
self and independence in the cingulate is opposed to a left verbal complement in
Mercury, the tree shrew becomes the monkey (Saturn), the ape (Jupiter), the
savage (Mars), the tool maker (Venus) and finally the talker (Mercury).

The Zodiac, the heavenly animals, the star symbols behind the moving planets,
almost seem to be inspired by the ancestral animals that provided the genetic
information making possible the genetic complexity of the animal brain, invertebrate
to vertebrate, as manifest in the symbol systems of the human form of that brain.  
Cancer, the crab, is the lunar tides of the sea, and the autonomic nervous system
as the primal base, the home of the deep unconscious brain functions.  Next to
Cancer is Leo, the lion, as the emergence of the deep autonomic unconscious into
the waking central nervous system, recticulate activation, thalamus, cerebral
mediated consciousness.  Beyond Leo lies Virgo, the virgin, the listening, the
temporal lobe aspect of Mercury.  In Virgo consciousness listens, hears verbal
communication and becomes aware, begins to become human.  But cats and
dogs, even bats have acute hearing and are able to analyze their environment
within their own sensory and behavioral systems.  If Leo is the primitive fish,
perhaps a shark, Virgo is the development of the sensory intelligence of the fish
and its ability to school, to communicate with other fish.

There are polarities from deep inside to outer surface: Moon, Artemis, autonomic
nervous system, visceral intelligence to Sun, Apollo, central nervous system,
cerebral intelligence, Venus, parasympathetic autonomic functions of rest and
digestion and reproduction to Mars, sympathetic autonomic functions of muscle
readiness and preparation to attack, Jupiter, frontal lobe plans for movement,
Saturn, retreat, second thoughts, frontal lobe motor inhibition, Moon's North Node,
fortune, pleasure, Moon's South Node, misfortune, suffering, pain, Pluto, instinctive
response, basal ganglia, striated bodies, Mercury, learning, communication, Left
Cerebral areas, temporal lobe, Broca's area, Neptune, Hippocampus, right
temporal lobe, rhinencephalon, linear journey, Uranus, cingulate, sense of
independent self, basal ganglia and frontal lobes, clever actions.  But, there
polarities seem to trace a magic circle of relationships around the cerebrum and its
lobes and hemispheres.  Begin with Cancer and the Moon and the right
hemisphere occipital lobe and its connections to the right parietal cortex and its
sense of place.  Move to the left hemisphere occipital lobe and its connections to
left hemisphere association areas that provide an analysis of environmental sights
and sounds.  Here Leo begins to generate its imperial sense of reality ruled by the
Sun supplemented by neighboring Virgo in the left temporal lobes where Mercury
begins its rule over sound and language and all forms of communication.  Move
forward into left parietal lobe sense of touch and somatosenory information.  This
region belongs to Libra and Venus.  Move forward still into the nearby motor
functions along the frontal lobes.  This belongs to Scorpio and Mars and its
connections to the underlying basal ganglia and striated functions, belonging to
Pluto.  Just forward lies left hemisphere frontal lobe functions that plan and facilitate
motor movements.  This region belongs to Sagittarius and the planet Jupiter.  
Forward from areas controlling motor facilitation lie portions of the frontal lobes that
inhibit action, that control memory, evaluation, caution, this belongs to Capricorn
and the planet Saturn.  Moving forward and downward and to the right, we enter the
right frontal lobe and the cingulate areas on the right.  This is the region where the
young brain begins to develop its sense of self in early infancy.  This region belongs
to Aquarius and the planet Uranus.  Even deeper down and further along the circle
of the cerebral zodiac we come to the deep rhinencephalon and primitive regions
governing the sense of smell.  Here we find primitive linear thinking, the sense of
time and space, where connection of the temporal lobes and the hippocampus
store the memory of the journey of our life.  These deep regions in the right cerebral
cortex belong to Neptune and Pisces.  Moving back upward to the motor areas of
the right hemisphere frontal lobe and its connections to the cingulate, we find an
area ruled by Mars and Aries, just forward lies the right somatosensory area along
the right central sulcus.  Here, and in the parietal lobe beyond, lies the realm of
Taurus and the matching realm of Venus of the right hemisphere of the brain.  Just
behind it lies the upper temporal lobes and their association with other areas of the
cerebrum in both right and left hemisphere, allowing the two hemisphere to function
as an integrated whole, here we find another realm ruled by communication, by
Mercury and Gemini.  Now we have traced the full animal sign circle, returning to the
crab and the lion, Cancer and Leo.

Humans tend to center their behavior in Jupiter and Mercury, in Gemini, Virgo, and
Sagittarius and examine it under the light of Leo and Apollo.  Humans are social
creatures that communicate through visual and auditory signals, through signs and

Dogs are social creatures also.  But, their communication belongs to the realm of
Neptune, Pluto, and the Moon.  They use their noses much more than us.  They
depend upon their instincts much more than we do.  They are deeper into
themselves than we are.  It is easy  for us to loose ourselves, so high up in the
Mount Olympus of the brain that we forget our roots, lose track of our hearts, do not
know our own feelings.

Cats are very much in touch with the deeper aspects of the frontal lobe control of
actions, with the cingulate and limbic areas of their brains and associated basal
ganglia.  Cats know how they feel and are much more in touch with it.  They depend
on Saturn and Capricorn and Aquarius in ways the we seem unable to do.  They
control the Uranus, the independent boundary of their lives, far better than we do.

Birds live in the realm of Libra and Scorpio, of action and balance.  Everything in its
right time and place is what bird life is all about.  Accurate matching of response to
stimulus, and effective acting out of response patterns, the things ruled by Mars,
Venus, and Pluto and rooted in striated bodies and basal ganglia is a key to bird
intelligence.  But, the bird is visual.  There is a lot of Apollo and Leo in the sense of
sunlight as the sign of visual stimuli and the bird is capable of a great deal of Apollo
like display if appropriate, at the right time and place.  

Birds can also use sound to communicate, they can be Apollo in the sense of the
singer in league with the Gemini and Virgo ruled Mercury of left and right temporal
lobes and its connections with motor response that involve vocalization, calls,
songs, noises that say "I am here and this is my place."
Look at my Nose Brain will
I am very smart at smelling!
This is the source of many
tactile sensations on my
somatosensory strip!
Rising Sun
N. Accumbens
There, explore
Right Temporal
Right Parietal
Cow, Pig
Pallas, Saturn to
Right Frontal
Uranus to Pluto
Right Motor,
Basal Ganglia
Skilled Actions
Rodent,  Beaver
Dreams, Drunk
Limbic lobes
Brain Stem
Solar Rays
Awake, Sober

Ape/Go/Tool Use/Frontal
Left Temporal
Vertebrate (fish)
Strong, Hard
Weak, Soft
Link to Excel File 2011 Revised Jan 15th 2012