A Quick and Simple Way to Think about the Brain [Infographic]

Could having a map of the brain help you in your work with clients?

For example, just being able to show your clients what part of the brain controls emotion, or the nervous system, could open the door to helping them learn how to regulate these areas.

Here’s an infographic you can share with clients to help them understand how their brain functions. Click To Tweet

So we created an infographic based on the work of Paul D. MacLean, MD and Rick Hanson, PhD that you can share with your clients. (Please feel free to make a copy to give to them.)

Click the image to enlarge

If you’d like to print a copy to share with your clients, just click here: Color or Print-friendly

(When you make copies to share, please be sure to include the copyright information. We put a lot of work into creating these resources for you. Thanks!)

For information on how to apply brain science to your work with clients, please click here.

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127 Comments

  1. Tiernan Campbell says:

    Thank you for this infographic. I am working with the LGBTQ Home for Hope in Philadelphia, PA, a shelter and recovery house for the LGBTQ community. I facilitate recovery meetings and other related programming both in the Home for Home and in the William Way LGBTQ Community Center. Free is always the right price for us since we (the Home for Hope) exist solely through donations. I love how you have labeled the parts of the brain. It’s quite easy for a non-professional in the field to look at it and relate it to something they will deeply understand quickly and easily.

  2. Anita says:

    LOVE This! Thank you for sharing :)

  3. Elegant and simple method to describe a complex situation! Thank you.

  4. Thank you for providing this valuable information. Both my clients and I are very grateful.

  5. Laura J Lofy says:

    THanks for this!

  6. This is an excellent resource! Thanks

  7. Barbara Caspy says:

    This infograph looks very helpful for clients! Thanks so much!

  8. David George says:

    I work as a client within the client group- to provide ourselves with the best information, and the best strategies to improve our lives, through historic trauma. Our vision is to work in tandem with the clinical industry- to achieve the best outcomes. Thanks… you offer hope in what is a terrible and terrifying condition.

  9. Imogen O'Connor says:

    Thank you so much for generously sharing this useful schematic

  10. Jim says:

    With all the glowing comments, I find myself a little reluctant to post. Then I saw Eric Andrews comment about the inaccuracies and Erin Wolfe, Mary Ann, and Nancy looking for a more accurate graphic. I’ll simply point to the recently published book, “How Emotions Are Made” by Lisa Feldman Barrett. From page 81: “This illusory arrangement of layers which is sometimes called the ‘triune brain,’ remains one of the most successful misconceptions in human biology…Humans don’t have an animal brain gift-wrapped in cognition, as any expert in brain evolution knows.” Appendix D of the book has some graphics. Perhaps PESI could do something with Lisa Feldman Barrett to advance a much more scientifically rigorous approach to the mind-body connection???

    • Karl says:

      Hi Jim, et al.,
      I completely agree with you – can we stop perpetuating the myths of pseudo neuroscience? Not only this is inaccurate but also a very outdated information. I would too recommend Lisa Feldman Barrett’s book for reference on this topic.

  11. Sam says:

    I am very thankful for this information. From the client’s view, I realize how much the sense of safety and seeking for peace has been a great importance for me, because I lack of this the most in my life. Being overprotected by my brother, who in fact, acted in an abusive way as he puts all his anger towards the younger. I trust him and accept him as he is but it is very naive – as I realize it now. His anger is more towards our father who has been aggressive and verbally abusive. I am not sure how to compensate for this lack of safety and hunger for peace. So far back I have not realize that this could come from another reason as well. But this info is surely enlightening. Thank you very much.

  12. Tom Gilley says:

    Super helpful, thank you.

  13. maggie says:

    Awesome!

  14. Heather says:

    Speaking as a client, I was looking up exactly this kind of information a few days ago. Maybe you would do one on the ANS? Thank you!

  15. great resource. thank you.

  16. Jane Harris says:

    Thank you once again, Ruth, for giving us another oh-so-helpful tool for use with our clients. And a nice summary of these I needed to review (or learn)!

    • Jane Harris says:

      **things

  17. Andrew Woods says:

    Thanks, as I was thinking how such a tool would be helpful.

  18. eric says:

    lovely! thanks. the English lit dude says: para 4 Is missing an if. cheers!

  19. Thanks. Just what I need for clients when I talk about their brain. As Paul Gilbert says we have a tricky brain!
    Sally Carritt

  20. Dr. Lee Jagers says:

    Ahh! All in one place . . . with pictures . . . easy to use. I’m anticipating giving this a lot of attention.
    Many thanks for not charging an arm and a leg for such usable information.

  21. David Redman says:

    Lovely, clear infographic. Many thanks for sharing.

  22. Thank you. This is a fundamental we use in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy. It’s good to have such a clearly explained infographic.

  23. Thank you for creating and sharing these.

  24. Richard Nino says:

    This is excellent! An effective guide thru the profound complexity of this wonderful and amazing integral part of ourselves. Deep thanks and appreciation to the formulate team.

  25. Rachel says:

    Be careful with mindfulness. 7% of people who try it have severe adverse psychiatric reactions. It certainly did not help me I have the neurological illness chronic pain. Mindfulness is being recommended for it but when I went on a course I just felt severe pain in my brain. Interesting because the brain has no pain receptors. Mindfulness means awareness, that is all. There are other ways e.g. Yoga of learning mind body awareness. The main thing is to stop multitasking. Human brains are not designed for it. Sorry I had a reference for this but have mislaid it. We are not designed by evolution to live as we do in the modern world. Hence such widespread mental illness and suffering

  26. Afsaneh Weber says:

    Fantastic infographic; simple, clear and intelligible. I definitely will make a good use of this for my clients.

    Thanks,

    Afsaneh Weber

  27. Rossen Russev says:

    !!!

  28. Susan Alexander says:

    Fantastic. but will have to print out because printing in captions is difficult to read. Susan Alexander

  29. Patricia says:

    Thank you for your generosity, Ruth. This will be most helpful to share with my patients.
    Clear, informative !

  30. srisht says:

    wonderful clear visual for patients to understand why the brain mind work this way
    i have also used other visuals but this one takes the cake
    thank you

  31. Christina Dereymaeker says:

    I’m very grateful for your generosity. This visual aid will be very useful for colleagues and patients in the department I work as a nurse. So many times patients feel frustrated with themselves because they “feel” fear before surgery. From experience I know it calms them down when they learn that their reaction is “normal” and related to perception and brain function.

  32. sheila massoni says:

    ty vm am sharing this with my mds who don’t seem to want to listen just write a script for a happy pill

  33. Jigy says:

    Brilliant by its simplicity

  34. Marion Robbins says:

    Thank you so much for your generosity in sharing this clear, informative resource! I am not a therapist, but a Yoga teacher, who tries to build inner physical,mental and spiritual awareness into her teaching. Deeply grateful!

  35. Dr. Kay Vonne Cason says:

    Thanks

    I’m very interested in learning more about the new info in the brain science. It is very interesting. Thirty years ago I was taught and practiced various “spiritual strategies” like visualizations affirmations and vision boards which we called Image Pages back in the day. I guess they were deemed spiritual practices because we did not know how they work. The new brain science tells us how they work. Practicing something over and over again causes neurons that fire together to wire together.

    Dr. Cason

  36. Anita Demants says:

    Thanks, Ruth and Rick for the simple and easy to understand format. And I appreciate your permission to copy this!
    Just to let you know that I dearly miss the NICABM conferences at Hi,ton Head!

  37. Helen Schwencke says:

    Interesting and helpful, though it doesn’t mention the “collapse”, “play dead”, “deer in head lights”, “terror” function of a deeply distressed, immobilised person. As I understand it, this is a primitive survival function also.
    Where would that function be represented in the infographic?

  38. Beth Jones says:

    Nice graphic! Difficult to use in the deep South, as roughly 75% of my clients do not believe in evolution!

  39. Shelley Malyk says:

    Thank you for this. I provide this info about the brain constantly to clients in the context of emotional regulation, caring for trauma/depression/stress/anxiety and it helps them so much to understand the value of pursuing mindfulness for treatment. Having a visual will be very valuable!

  40. Elspeth says:

    Thank you so very much for this, Ruth. It is so helpful for people to understand a little of how their brains work audit also helps a great deal towards feeling optimistic about making any changes one might wish to make. I am a nursery school teacher and I work with their parents on self-awareness (mindfulness based) and self-regulation skills as we all learn to support our children in their development. I thank you for this and so many of your wonderful info graphics and videos, all given freely and all such a benefit to humankind.

  41. Robert says:

    Very helpful.

  42. Dagmar says:

    Thankyou,
    Love this infographic.
    Having some trouble seeing the writing clearly on the print out on A4 , Might try to print it on A3.
    But great to use on computer and can send to clients phones.

  43. Catherine Johnson says:

    Thanks for this helpful infographic. Just to say it doesn’t print with the nicabm acknowledgement visible

  44. Joan says:

    Good information but terrible choice of background and color, very difficult to read orange, yellow or blue lettering on black background for many people with neurological issues.

  45. Kim Kuehner, Ph.D., LP says:

    I love the handout. It’s not easy to re-print due to the dark background – that also makes it a bit hard to read for some.

    thanks
    k

  46. Thank you for this handout! It will be very helpful as I explains the triune brain to my clients! Thank you for offering this as a free download!

  47. Warren says:

    An excellent resource that goes well with Rick Hanson’s instructions to :
    1. pat the lizard
    then..
    2. feed the mouse
    then
    3. hug the monkey.
    These of course refer to each of the brains and how to work with them. Neuropsychotherapy also follows these instructions in the way it structures therapy .

  48. ellen says:

    Great hand out thank you

  49. lisha mejan says:

    Thank you. This is a good and useful tool.

  50. Sally Tarvid says:

    Thank you for this useful tool. It will help me explain to my clients the power of thoughts in determining feelings and actions.

  51. Thank you so much for this simple and clear explanation of this complex organ -the brain:)

  52. Maria Nagy says:

    thank you this is a wonderful resource. I really value all you very up to date information. So useful for working with clients.

  53. etaf says:

    thank you

  54. Patricia Mugridge says:

    I have to hand write the copyright information. Even when I change the paper size it leaves the copyright information out. Great handout. Love it!!

  55. Lovely.

  56. Ethel Barber LCSW SEP says:

    Thank you so much for this most helpful tool, Ruth.

  57. Sue says:

    Thank you Paul, Rick and Ruth, they say two minds are better than one. Three obviously is magical. This will be so helpful in explaining to my clients and their parents just where the treatment is aimed and why. So again thank you for sharing this Ruth.

  58. Kim O'Donnell says:

    Thank you so much for this! I’ve been using some of Rick Hanson’s Green Zone Red Zone concepts with the children I work with and this will be a wonderful addition to help them recognise when their needs aren’t being met so they can talk to someone about identifying what has to change for them. This is really fantastic!

  59. Thanks

  60. Arch Tibben says:

    Thanks Ruth

  61. Francine says:

    just figured out a way so ignore last post.

  62. Francine says:

    sorry but I can’t seem to down load it. Emailing to myself makes the JPEG graphic unreadable. Any options? It is so good I definitely appreciate your sharing it and would love to share it with clients.

    • peter vajda says:

      with a pc, try right-clicking on it, choose save it as a graphic, to your desktop.

  63. Shar Ishbel says:

    Thanks for your generosity in sharing your work.

    Very helpful for clients.

  64. At last! an explanation I can understand. A wonderful visual tool.! Thanks for sharing it.

  65. Trish Johnson says:

    Absolutely brilliant visual tool – thank you so much!!!

  66. Bonnie says:

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful resource!

  67. Fantastic infographic! I have been reading “Budda Brain” and this will be a great tool for sharing concept with clients.

  68. Tobias Schreiber says:

    Thank you . Really great way to see and understand the Brain

  69. Babette Jenny says:

    thanks!!!

  70. Thank you! this is brilliant, and a very helpful resource to our Family Therapy Centre.

  71. Deborah Elizabeth Lotus says:

    Excellent! really is ‘simple’; easier to remember because of the layout comparing the different brain’s and their functions, but maybe a way to connect them all graphically? Good job, nonetheless!

  72. Thank you so much! This graphic will be so helpful when explaining this concept to patients. I appreciate your generosity, and will certainly retain copyright information when sharing.

  73. Brilliant than you very much I am teaching Mindfulness and Focusing courses and this is brilliant when combined with my other trauma training that I have received.

  74. Maggie Baumann, MFT, CEDS says:

    This is a great resource to share with clients! Thank you!!

    I do have to say like others have commented, if this infographic was designed with a white background it would make much easier for printing and copying!!

  75. THIS IS A VALUABLE REFERENCE TOOL I CAN USE IN MY TRAINING.

  76. Mary Moore says:

    Thanks for this resource. I’d like to use it with clients and as a resource for them to keep to refer too. However the background BLACK makes the copying difficult. It can’t be changed by me as protected. Could it be recoloured avoiding so much BLACK please. As usual, great resources.

  77. Jeanette Parsons says:

    That is similar to a drawing I on a white board , but this terrific ! I also have diagram of symbol for crisis( yen and yang) showing choice of destructive behaviors or using crisis as opportunity for grown! I also have diagram of Emotional, Wise and Rational mind . All to show how we can calm the threat and focus on options and choose what’s in ones’s best interest!

    Thank you for your continued, up to date programs,

    Jeanette ParsonsMS, LPC

  78. Ni says:

    Thank you, this is an excellent visual. It will make it a bit more straightforward to talk about the brain – demystify the information.
    A very valuable resource.
    Thanks for your work in putting this together

  79. Chiara says:

    Thank you!!!

  80. newell eaton says:

    thanks – look forward to reviewing the report

  81. Denise says:

    Excellent for use as a tool however the dark background will use up too much ink to print. Thank you for sharing though.

  82. Leslie Vornholt says:

    Excellent visual and description of functions of each region of the brain. I can use it to guide my hands-on treatments and selection of essential oils. Thank you!

  83. Debbie Davis says:

    Thank you so much! An excellent summary for my clients. It is one thing for them to hear me talk about this, or even to share an article, but this diagram is really powerful and will assist clients in remembering this information between sessions!

  84. Deb Foshager says:

    I sure appreciate you sharing this! Thank you so much. It’s an excellent summarization of what we’re learning about the brain. It will be very helpful to my clients.

  85. Diana Bowen says:

    Thank you! I’m often looking for good visuals to share with clients, and this is well-written and easy to understand. Thank you for sharing.

  86. Pauline says:

    Your sharing of information is just amazing and I thank you.

  87. Thanks for sharing!

  88. Liz brimacombe says:

    What a wonderful illustration, thank you for your generosity in sharing it for us to use with clients. Much appreciated and incredibly helpful.

  89. Thanks for the great visual. It does help some clients to see what we’re talking about.

  90. Great chart. . However other mammals other than primates feel love and attachment

  91. Excellent chart. Thank you I have printed it and will frame it for myself, clients, and colleagues.

  92. A great Infographic. Thanks for sharing it!

  93. zoe strickland says:

    thank you for this helpful resource

  94. Ellen says:

    I like this. However, like another commenter, I would likely use it more if the background was not black. Any way to release another version with white background? Thank you.

  95. Lorenia says:

    Thank you so much for your generosity!!!
    Would love to have this translated into Spanish to support our work with Spanish-speaking population. Please let me know if I can be of service for it.
    Lorenia

  96. Eric Andrews says:

    Gah… There are so many things about this graphic that are not accurate from a stance of modern neuroscience. The Triune Brain model is interesting, but it is far too simplistic given the information from more modern research. Similarly, the “need” section is cute but over-simplistic. I know that many clients are not going to want an in-depth and complicated explanation of neurology and behavior, but we should find one that strikes a balance between accuracy and accessibility. Otherwise, we are all guilty of disseminating inaccuracies that hinder progress.

    • Erin Wolfe says:

      Eric, Do you have a link to a more accurate diagram? I agree that this model is too simplistic and also think that helping clients learn about their brain is helpful. If you know of something more accurate and still accessible, I’d love to know about it! Thanks.

      • Mary Ann says:

        I’d love to know about a more accurate one, too.

    • Nancy says:

      Wholeheartedly agree!

  97. Lynne says:

    A helpful visual aid in education of mind body experiences .
    ..thanks very much .

  98. Amazing poster
    Thank you much for sharing it, it is a mose welcome resource for my clients.

  99. Pam Gottschalk says:

    This is an excellent psychoeducational tool!!!
    Thanks.

  100. Susan D. Gorman, M.A., SEP says:

    Thank you for providing this excellent resource which has the benefit of helping us to partner with our clients to develop their own healing which can lead to finding additional tools for themselves outside of the partnership with the therapist. The clients then have a deeper commitment to do their own work in order to develop a greater sense of empowerment, self-confidence, choice of responses, and a deeper sense of agency!

  101. Simple and elegant. Thanks for sharing this graphic.

  102. Wonderful! Thanks for another great resource, Ruth, Rick and Paul. ● SciEnspire! LLC

  103. Rossen Russev says:

    Thank you very much!

  104. Johanna Bergerman says:

    thank you; I will be able to make use of this.

  105. tato says:

    Great! Why can’t I print it?

  106. This is great–so clear. I will certainly use this. Thank you!

  107. Francesca Di Mauro. LCSW says:

    Very helpful. Thank you!!!

  108. Louise says:

    This is great! Thank you so much, will help my clients to understand.
    Blessings,
    Louise from Chicago

  109. Juan R. says:

    Thank you!

  110. Stephen says:

    Thank you.

  111. thats super helpful! Thanks Ruth and team :)

    stella

  112. Dave Shirley says:

    Thank you for the information. It is a very helpful handout to give to clients when explaining how the brain functions. It would have been more helpful to have the handout with the background white instead of in colour. My printer had to use a lot of colour ink when printing it.

  113. Doris Mason says:

    Thanks! This is helpful.

  114. Valerie Feeeley says:

    Awesome, thank you. Explaining the brain and how trauma impacts the brain helps open people to be willing to try calming activities and meditative practices.

  115. Sandra says:

    Thank you! This is really a wonderful tool.
    Thank you for caring so much for people that you’ve made this free. I will certainly share the copywrite and include just how generous you are as well!

  116. Janet Harvey says:

    I have heard about the Triune Brain from the various sources of information I have learnt over the years. However, I do appreciate this Infography to show to clients it is well presented – Thank you

  117. Jan Yordy says:

    I have known about the Dr. McLean’s Triune Brain Theory for at least 15 or 20 years and use it all the time with clients. Since most of the time I work with children, I even wrote a book about this theory to help them understand it. Thanks for making this handy visual which I can now use with adults.

  118. Erika says:

    I laminated your last infograph, it’s such a great visual when speaking to the necessity of ongoing practice…. This will be the perfect compliment to explaining the effects of trauma on various regions of the brain, how to move out of tfight, flight, freeze, fiegn, for starters. I’ve had a number of clients ask for copies (the nicabm logo is always included). Thank you for creating and sharing this wonderful resource!

  119. Donna Willems says:

    Thank you for this concise and well done illustration of the basic brain. It would have been so helpful when I was learning cranio sacral work and now I will print it out and give it to my clients to assist them in becoming aware of their basic brain function. I am very grateful!

  120. Thanks. Looks good. Any chance of making it even more simple?

    • Erika says:

      Hi Suzette, I’m wondering if you noticed that the third page is the first two pages combined for a simple one page version?

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