The Embodied Brain

At BEabove Leadership, as we get ready for the first Module Three of our Neuroscience, Consciousness and Transformational Coaching program, I have been thinking a lot about energy, quantum mechanics, and the fact that our brains are so much bigger than the two hemispheres etc. in our skulls. So I thought I’d share some thoughts about the brain we are carrying in our entire bodies.

1) Our Heart is Actually a Brain

“Far more than a simple pump, as was once believed, the heart is now recognized by scientists as a highly complex system with its own functional ‘brain’…. “

~Roland McCraty, Institute of HeartMath

The heart has a nervous system and neurons of its own. Research in the field of Neurocardiology has shown that the heart can learn, remember, and make decisions separate from the brain in our heads. And research by the HeartMath Institute has shown that the signals from the heart, as conducted through the vagus nerve (see bleow), precede decision-making in the brain. In other words, the heart thinks first, and thinks faster, influencing the brain in the areas of perception, cognition and emotional processing.

The heart also generates a powerful electromagnetic field – much more powerful than that of the brain. To quote the experts at the HeartMath Institute, “Compared to the electromagnetic field produced by the brain, the heart’s field is about 60 times greater in amplitude, and permeates every cell in the body. The magnetic component is approximately 5000 times stronger than the brain’s magnetic field and can be detected several feet away from the body with sensitive magnetometers.”

2) Our Gut is a Sort of Brain, Too

The greatest concentration of serotonin (a key neurotransmitter), which is involved in mood control, depression and aggression, is found in your intestines, not your brain. Studies have found that high doses of probiotics (which serve to balance the gut flora in positive ways and unlike antidepressants, have no negative side effects) cause mice to face challenges with more perseverance and take more risks than mice not treated with probiotics.

3) The Vagus Nerve is Really Important

The name comes from the medieval Latin word vagus, which literally means “wandering” (vagrant, vagabond and vague all come from the same root). This nerve “wanders” through our body, connecting to our organs and conveying sensory information to and from the central nervous system (CNS). Most of the fibers in the vagus nerve (80-90%) are afferent, which means they take information back to the CNS.

In other words, the vagus nerve is the information superhighway connecting the body to brain, with 80-90% of the traffic flowing up to the brain from our organs and viscera (to the right hemisphere of the brain), and only 10-20% of the information going from the brain to the body. 

4) Our Body Takes Things Literally

Our bodies are remarkably literal in their interpretation of the world. (Perhaps this is because the vagus nerve is sending back so much information from the body to the brain.) There are numerous astonishing research studies showing this – a recent one published in the Association for Psychological Science last March proved that if you literally put people in boxes they think more restrictively and when literally “out of the box” are more creative. Another showed that people who hold a warm drink see a stranger’s personality as warmer than those not holding a drink. Mimicking the phrase “on the one hand, on the other hand” by moving your hands alternately in a lifting motion will generate more ideas than lifting a single hand. And so on. People who sat on hard chairs negotiated harder for a salary increase than those in soft chairs. Donation kettles at the top of an escalator garnered more donations than those at the bottom of the escalator (we associate going “up” with being better people).

Conclusion

We are constantly – and literally – interpreting our environment. At BEabove, we believe the task of coaches and teachers is to help people become more consciously aware of ourselves as embodied brains. Because the vagus nerve comes into the right hemisphere of the brain, which does not look at things individually, logically, or in a linear manner, we need to develop the ability to interact with this vague (interesting semantic connection there) information so that we can grasp it, understand it, and use it effectively. This is the job of coaching, counseling, and healing.

Do you want to learn how to bring more brain (and higher levels of consciousness) to your coaching? Consider joining us for an upcoming Module One of Neuroscience, Consciousness and Transformational Coaching.