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The Meaning of Adopting a "Meerkat Brain"

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Humans live in society, we are always exposed to social relationships, we have a family, we have friends, we interact with each other, but why Humans are Social beings? In the book neuroscience of human relationships Louis Cozolino states that “Using evolution as an organizing principle, we begin with the assumption that our social brains have emerged during natural selection because being social enhances survival. ” So, I have chosen an animal that can be compared with humans in terms of social skills and survival, and also to compare reactions when we get to face danger. This animal is meerkat, inside the wild animal world, meerkats are characterized for being like people in what we refer to social behavior.

Meerkat in the wild are extremely social creatures, they live in a mob of up to 40 animals. And they live in a “matriarchal” society, where the oldest female is the leader. They show affection by grooming each other. They baby-sit the dominant female’s pups, and they also protect their mob of danger. Meercats are social creatures, and share so many behaviors with us, they can feel and express anger, confusion, fear, and because they are used to live in community and it is important for their survival, when they are excluded from the group or mob they suffer and some of them don’t survive. Biologists from Cambridge University have been studying meerkats for more than 10 years. Alex Thornton and Katherine McAuliffe, the authors of a paper in the July 14 issue of Science documenting how meerkats teach their young to handle the highly poisonous scorpions that are one of their favorite meals. These researchers observed that meerkats teach young members of the group methods of hunting, Dr. Thornton and Dr. McAuliffe focused on one of the abilities young meerkats must learn: how to eat a scorpion. But when baby meerkats are to young the older meerkars will give dead scorpions to the youth and other will push them to hunt the scorpion. But the interesting think that they found is that the meerkats that got the live scorpions learned more quickly to hunt that the ones that got the dead scorpions.

So according to this we can say that meerkats have intellectual simulation and learning as humans do. Meerkats are known for their guard position. When the group is looking for food or exploring one or two guards will stand on higher ground or a tree to scan the area while the others eat or explore. If the guard senses danger, it will send out an alarm call, which all of the meerkats understand. Under the direction of the matriarch where it belongs, then all will run for protection until the danger passes. Meerkats face panic and anxious times, not only as individual, also as a group, let’s try to compare this with human behavior. People’s life is always under pressure, we are anxious, we are worried about if we are going to be on time, students under pressure about their scores, adults worried about money issues, teenagers feeling the pressure of how do they look or keeping themselves socially active, children feeling anxious when they are exposed to a social environment.

All of this factor makes us fell anxious. Anxiety is when you care far too much about everything. So, what happen when we face anxiety or we get in a panic situation, we adopt a “Meerkat brain” we become worried of the possible bad outcomes that we can have and adopt a guard position, we don’t feel comfortable with the environment but we need to face the danger that we perceive around us, we start to panic as the meerkat alarm call we get to do something as a signal of reaction of survival. This behavior had been applied to a study about how to train your “meerkat brain” as a therapy for children that suffer anxiety. This is based in “The Meerkat Brain Model”. In the 1960’s Paul MacLean proposed a 3-part theory of the brain, which is named “the triune brain”. Then Jane Evans, a sociologist, during her research about children exposed to violent environment adapted it using a meerkat, elephant and monkey, as representation of each part that are listed as follow:

  • Part one of the triune brain is focused on survival, which is called the primitive Brain. It is responsible of the most basic survival functions. It reacts automatically when we are in danger, we can respond with fight, flight, freeze to preserve life. So, this part of the brain have been related as meerkat brain.
  • Part two is the “emotional brain” (hippocampus, the amygdala and hypothalamus) it is particularly focused in memories. Laying them down and retrieving them, along with emotions we may have felt at the time, especially fear, rage, love and nurture, anxiety, jealousy. So, this part has been represented by Elephant.
  • Part three is the New Cortex which is our “smart” brain which we use to rationalize, think about consequences of our actions, delay gratification, and is responsible for all our higher-order conscious activity. The three animals: Meerkat, elephant, Monkey have been related with each part of the triune of brain as mentioned, this is an application of a therapy that is focused in training our meerkat brain and have a balanced relation between the three parts of the triune of brain in order to have a balanced life with the our “smart brain” mostly in charge. This model is disclosed as follows:


  • Part One – The Meerkat brain represents the reptilian, primitive brain, because in a gang of Meerkats, one is always on lookout duty. It sounds the alarm if there is danger nearby so they can fight or flight.
  • Part Two -– The Elephant brain is the emotional memory brain, (mammalian/limbic brain) as an elephant never forgets!
  • Part Three -– The Monkey brain represents the intelligent brain (neocortex). Even do that there is no a biological study of meerkats brain, by studding their behavior we can compare and find similitudes with humans and also, we can use them to understand anxiety disorders and find a way to treat them.

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The Meaning Of Adopting A “Meerkat Brain”. (2020, July 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 28, 2021, from
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