Polyvagal Theory

Our “primitive” gut neurology plays an active role in our experience. “Gut Feelings”, which we usually experience more quickly than our conscious thoughts, are a good example of how our guts are aware of and respond to our situation and surroundings. It is much more accurate to describe this primitive neurology as primary, with all evolutionarily more complex neurological layers as extensions of these fundamental cognitive processes. This concept turns the established “top down” view of cognitive processes intrinsic to traditional psychotherapy on its head (excuse the pun). However, the ramifications of understanding the influence of these primary cognitive processes on conscious awareness are vast, and change how we view anxiety, depression and a host of other dysregulated cognitive processes.

This gut neurology is sometimes labeled the “Gut Brain”, and is formally described as the “Enteric Nervous System”(ENS). You can read about the anatomy and physiology of the Enteric Nervous System here:


515O6sIR3PL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_The role of the ENS in self regulation has been well known to all types of Somatic Therapists for millennium. However, it is just within the last 10 years or so that a scientific model to support the clinical experience of Somatic Therapists has emerged. The primary proponent of this model is Dr. Steven Porges. His book: “The Polyvagal Theory” comprehensively covers this subject in sufficient detail to establish this concept as a valid scientific theory, which is being widely adopted by both clinicians and researchers.


Short video on the dynamics of social engagement which encapsulates the premiss of the Polyvagal Theory:

An overview of the theory can be seen in this 45 minute clinical conference presentation by Dr. Porges:

The Polyvagal Theory establishes a theoretical basis for the link between Gut Microbiome health and cognition, a vigorous area of current research. More on the Gut Microbiome here:


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