Neuroscience of Coaching

The rapid advancement in Neuroscience now makes it possible to track and monitor brain activity in human beings thus opening up a whole exciting field of experimentation and exploration. Our current understanding of how our brains work, is providing sufficient evidence of how humans gather, store and process information. It is also telling us how we respond to stimuli and why we feel and behave the way we do. Counter intuitively, we are also learning how we can alter such brain activity to build intrinsic motivation towards facilitating positive and possibly permanent change in human behaviour.

It all starts with the Brain.  Our brain is a jelly like mass consisting of a hundred billion neurons connected to millions of Axions that can create a trillion network connections at any given time!! (the world’s most powerful super computers are still some time away). Connecting these innumerable neurons are spaces called Synapses. It is in these spaces many neuro-chemical transmitters such a cortisol, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, adrenalin etc. are released and exchanged in millionth of a second depending on the emotions we are experiencing or external stimuli that is causing us to think or feel in a certain manner.

The more we think or feel in a certain manner, the more we use those neural paths thus developing literally thicker neurons. This is called hardwiring and is the natural tendency of the brain.

Interestingly, the neuroplasticity of the brain mass prompts higher growth of those parts of the brain that we use most and vice versa. Our brains change shape throughout our lives. Most of our conscious thinking is done using a thin membrane like portion of the brain just below our forehead called the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC). Due to its limited capacity, it cannot retain more than a finite number of information at any given time. It is also a high energy consumer and therefore tends to lock all repetitive actions as habits. Thus, our brain is also referred to as a habit making organ.

Deep inside our brain is the Lymbic System. It allows us to sense threat or reward even at a very subtle level and helps us regulate our emotions and feelings. It prepares the brain to react to external stimuli, physical or social. Interestingly, Neuroscience tells us that the PFC and Lymbic cannot function at the same time. Which means that you cannot think when you are emotionally disturbed or in a state of fear and vice versa. There’s a whole lot of Neuroscience out there and we have only scratched the surface.

But what is the connection between Neuroscience and the art of Coaching? 

First, Brain Based Coaching(as we like to call it in NeuroLeadership Institute) utilizes the learnings from Neurosciences to bring about fundamental and deep change in thinking, feeling and behaviours of people. It addresses their paradigms, perceptions and biases through the lens of Neuroscience. It is scientific coaching and relies to a lesser degree to human psychology as has been done for many years by different styles of coaching. By changing the stimuli and reducing the Lymbic response, Brain Based Coaching can create new wirings in the brain and facilitate the right neural pathways and transmitter flows.

Written by:

Soumen Chatterje

Executive Director – NeuroLeadership Institute of India and South Asia