A series of explorations into a new paradigm in coaching (or a re-emergence of what we always knew?)
By Dr. Suzanne Henwood
Part 2 – Do we really have more than one brain?
Scientific literature claims we have three brains. The reason the field was called mBraining (not tri brain or three braining), was because there are already another two brains at least being explored in science, but they are not yet universally called brains. So, the m for multiple leaves the field open for more emergence.
Insider mBIT secrets – at mBIT Master Coach level we already teach to 5 brains.
The three brains that are already shown to meet the scientific criteria to be called brains are the Head, the Heart and the Gut. As such in mBraining we use a wide definition of neuro (meaning nerve, nervous system) and do not restrict the term to the head as some other authors do. Neuro coaching for us is incomplete if it does not include head, heart, gut and Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), the fourth brain. One of the issues with a more universal acceptance of this approach is that many imaging techniques struggle (to date) to demonstrate fine specificities in imaging outside of the head, when there is a reliance on blood flow to show function.
But stop reading this for a moment.
Take a deep breath and ask yourself, “where do I feel love”?
I am guessing none of you would point to the limbic system in your head, yet some people persist in thinking that all emotions are head based, just because we haven’t shown them yet as a process at heart level. Yet even that is untrue, as we explore biofeedback mechanisms which measure Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and show beyond any doubt the impact emotion has on the heart, which then impacts directly in the ANS. (Explore heartmath.com if you want to know more about that specific field.) But how many coaches use, or are even aware of, HRV and it’s role in coaching?
So, I am going to continue as if the Head, Heart and Gut are brains, as I accept that as my reality and I will leave you to explore that further if you need more evidence to satisfy your head brain. I am also going to assume that you know about the head brain…so I will outline some of what we know about heart and gut in this introductory blog (Part 2).
Heart or Cardiac Brain
The heart is the smallest of the three brains – if we look at the number of neurones as a size measure. But it is a key player in creating balance due to its link to maintaining the autonomic balance.
When we look at the Prime Functions of the Heart Brain, we know that the heart is ideally suited to handle emotions, values and connecting with others.
While the heart communicates to the head brain via the Vagus nerve (the vast majority of which transfers information up to the head, not down from the head), the heart is also able to receive and translate information directly (for example through chemical and hormonal triggers, as well as electrical conductivity) and it can respond to those triggers directly, without having to defer to the head brain.
One field of interesting science related to neuroplasticity and learning in the heart brain relates to the field of compassion. We now know you can develop and learn how to do compassion. Through deliberate use and training that we can literally change the structure of our brains to become more compassionate – how cool is that. It makes me curious – what are you choosing for the future structure of your brain?
Gut or Enteric Brain
If we move to the gut brain, there is a complex network of about 500,000 neurones in and around the gut brain, that extends from the mouth to the anus. In addition, there is the microbiome within the gut which has intelligence and impact in it’s own right.
The latest revelations about the gut brain show that gut health is connected to many previously thought to be head based conditions such as mental health disorders (including depression), alzheimers and, Parkinsons Disease. Opening up potential new treatment regimes.
In coaching, we know that the gut has 3 Prime Functions, which include safety and security, motivation and mobilization and core identity. Knowing where these functions sit in the body means that you can more accurately and profoundly coach directly to those areas and assist clients to achieve transformational, often ontological changes.
I hope I have shown you how we have at least three brains and I hope you are now curious as to how you would use that ‘knowing’ in practice in coaching. We will explore that in Part 3.