Front and Back Brain (Poster)


Trauma activates our ‘back brain’ and shuts off large sections of our ‘front brain’. Recovery from trauma involves getting our front brain back online consistently.

But what are the front and back brains and what are the key differences between them?

This poster explains the concept in super-simple terms.

This is a free downloadable PDF.

Page 1 is a full-colour poster.

Page 2 is a low-ink, print-friendly version.

‘You don’t have to be a brain scientist to understand trauma …’

Not if we simplify things down a little, anyway! And that’s what I’ve done with the concept of the ‘front brain’ and ‘back brain’ – a metaphorical (not necessarily entirely anatomically correct!) way of looking at the brain, which this poster describes very succinctly.

The front brain is our clever, thinking, planning, uniquely human brain. It helps us make sensible choices. It helps us imagine the future. It helps us plan how we’re going to solve problems. And it largely goes offline during threat and because of trauma!

The back brain meanwhile is our primitive, instinctive, unconscious, survival-based brain which connects into our body and operates out of what are technically called ‘subcortical’ areas. It comes online to help us survive trauma and then when we are triggered.

This simple distinction between back brain and front brain can help us see when we’re reacting out of the residues of trauma, and what we need to do to be ‘grounded’ again. For more information see my article ‘Managing Triggers‘.

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