Posted in Positive Parenting, Therapy

The whole-brain child – hand model of the brain -explained

The Brain: first you have the spinal cord, which is a collection of cells, neurons, that allows energy and information from the body as signals and also a nerve called the Vegas nerve to come up through the spinal cord and into the skull part of the nervous system (some people call it the head brain). We also have a brain around our intestines and around our heart. 

The head brain: The most studied. The palm of your hand represents the first part of your brain, it is the first in the sense that it is the deepest part of your brain, it is the first to develop in utero when you were in your mothers room. It is also the first that we evolved to have. It is over 300 million years old. It is our old “reptile brain.” It contains a collection of nuclei are responsible keeping us awake and alert, fight flight freeze reaction. This is also known as the brainstem and it is very old impulses that are created here.

The limbic area: this would be your thumb (to be more accurate you would need two thumbs-  A left and right side). This area developed 200 million years ago, it is the second area to be developing in utero. This area helps you work with your brainstem to create emotions,it also works closely with other areas to create various forms of memory, it allows you to feel a connection or connected to someone.

If you “close your lid,”-  The two fingers in the middle represents the area that is actually going to go world when you come out of your mothers womb. This is the area that is very much shaped by the experiences that we have.

The outside layer of your fingers represents the  cortex- which is the outer bark of your brain. 

The back part of your brain in general represents the outside world. It has all sorts of layers to it and makes maps of the outside world.

With your hand in a fist shape, your front fingers represent your frontal cortex. It allows you to think and reflect. When we talk about reflections, this is the part of the brain that allows you to be able to manage and mention your emotions.

Your Mind: So the kind of things you do and in your mental life – the mind is basically, like you know when you are playing a game and you feel excited, that sensation that you call a subjective experience. You know how sometimes we are aware of things and sometimes we are not aware of things. So awareness is also a part of what the mind does. A third thing that the mind does is it helps regulate how all this information flow is happening in your subjective experience, awareness and even in how you communicate with other people.

Reflection: when you look inward, called “time in”, develops the part of the brain which is represented by your two middle finger nails. This part of the brain is called the prefrontal cortex. It is right behind your forehead- notice the unique anatomical position of your two middle finger nails. If you Flip your lid and then you close your lead you will notice that the two middle fingernails Lie under your thumb or the limbic system. This is the part of the brain that allows the cortex to go to the thumb known as the limbic area. Additionally, this area is also near the palm, so it connects the brainstem, which takes information from the body, through the spinal cord,  to your limbic area (thumb), especially to the right side of your brain, And goes right to that area prefrontal cortex). This part of the brain let you pick up what is going on in inside someone else’s nervous system. this part of the brain is amazing, it takes in what is going on inside someone else, it takes and what is going on in your own body like your heart, your intestines, it takes in what is going on in your brain stem, and your Limbic area, and what goes on throughout your whole cortex. It takes the separate things and pulls them together = integration. This is what this area (prefrontal cortex) does – it integrates everything – your body, your brainstem, your limbic area, your cortex, and even your relationships with other people. 

So when you reflect on things and you have relationships where two people honor each other   And care about each other with connections and communication – we call that an integrated relationship. 

Take home message:  when you have reflection and you have relationships that are caring and connecting, you stimulate the growth of the integrated fibers in the brain and these are the fibers that allow you to have resilience. 

Prefrontal cortex: this part of the brain allows you to regulate your impulses (control your impulses), allows you to be aware of your feelings and be aware of other peoples feelings and understand them. it allows you to be moral and think about what is good for everyone including the planet.  it allows you to  have intuition, it allows you to know where you been in the past and  where you are right now and where you are going in the future. It allows you to tune in to other people. That you get by reflecting on the inner world, being able to manage and mention your feelings. it allows you to develop it when you have relationships that are supportive like your teachers and parents and it allows you to develop all this so you’re resilient.  


Dan Siegel’s book “The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind”

The Dan Siegel Website: Full of great resources, including more on the healthy mind platter, videos, and audio of his wheel of awareness and breathing practices.

Video Series: 6 steps to Build Kindness and Resilience in Children with Dan Siegel


Mother, Pediatric Nurse and a Trail Blazer for Positive Change.

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