Growing up, it wasn’t uncommon for my dad to tell me to pull my head out of my butt — it was his way of saying, “Use your brain.” Well, dad, turns out I was using my brain, because according to new research, we all have a second brain in our butts.
“Okay, not a literal brain — more of an autonomous matrix of millions of neurons that can, somehow, control intestinal muscle movements without any help from your central nervous system,” reports Live Science. “And these neurons don’t actually live in your butt, but they do live in your colon, or large intestine — that tube-like organ that connects the small intestine to the rectum and shepherds what remains of the food you ate through the final leg of the digestive tract.”
According to the same article, while scientists aren’t exactly sure how intelligent this autonomous, intestinal brain might be, based on another recent study on mice, it could be quite smart. “The enteric nervous system (ENS) contains millions of neurons essential for organization of behavior of the intestine,” wrote the team of researchers from Australia, according to the same article.
So what are these butt brains actually doing? In short: They keep your poop moving in the right direction. The neural activity in your butt-brain stimulates specific muscles in your intestines: “This ensures that colonic muscle contractions — also known as ‘colonic migrating motor complexes’ — keep fecal matter moving in the right direction (out of the body, that is), and at a steady pace,” reports Live Science.
To that end, within the confines of butts in brains and brains and butts, it’s important to note that not all organisms have the same level of rectal aptitude. In fact, some — well, one — has neither a brain nor a butt: According to Newsweek, scientists from the University of Tsukuba in Japan recently discovered a primitive marine worm that doesn’t have the ability to poop, breathe, think or even bleed. “What they found was that the creature somehow managed to survive despite missing several seemingly-important body parts including kidneys, reproductive organs, a central nervous system, an anus and even a brain,” reports Newsweek.
But here’s the thing: Having neither brain nor butt isn’t always a bad thing. According to Jim Joseph, writing for Entrepreneur, “Your butt dominates your brain.” In other words, your vantage point on any issue depends almost entirely on where you park your butt. “You could be missing a world of opportunity by assessing a situation too narrowly,” writes Joseph. “Plus, when your butt dominates your brain, you’re constantly looking at issues through the same lens.”
The brown lens, to be specific.