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The New Science of Neurocoaching

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Four years ago executives around the world were asked by Sherpa Coaching about what sort of background they thought would be helpful for a coach. Psychology and counselling came in as least desirable on the list. However this year’s Executive Survey (2014) by the same firm found that neuroscience has topped the field of desirable backgrounds. What’s true for the goose is also true for the gander… 76% of coaches surveyed said neuroscience should play a strong role in coaching too. Coaches are now gearing up and I am no exception! Our company have become founding members of the Neuro Coaching Institute in Australia. What exactly is neurocoaching? Well it is the latest in a long line of brain related disciplines that gather under the banner of “neuroscience”. Let’s talk about that for a moment.

Broadly defined, neuroscience is a combination of medicine, physiology, applied psychology, immunology, the study of human behaviour and some hard core imaging in big, white, expensive machines. The industry has existed since the 1850’s (obviously without the machines) and has evolved over four distinct eras. These are of interest because when you’re reading the literature or chatting to a colleague about this fascinating subject you can hear which of these eras they are coming from. It’s easy to get lost in the world of “neuro” everything, so here’s a dummies guide to the departments in this giant industry…

Mechanics. People have been cutting up the brain and describing its components since the time of the Egyptians. Those who study brain structure are called neurobiologists. This mechanical understanding is often descriptive. For example, “This is Broca’s area and it processes language.”
Electricians. Brain science was profoundly altered in 1902 when Camillo Golgi and Ramón y Cajal discovered that neurons have an electrical charge. Those who study neurons are called neurophysiologists. They invented, among other things, electro convulsive therapy to fix things.
Chemists. The next big shift came in the 1962 when Bernard Katz discovered cross synapse communication and Henry Hallett Dale who studied neurotransmission. This lead to a plethora of drug based remedies, dished out by neuropsychiatrists to add back missing chemistry.
Network engineers. In the 1970’s Eric Kandel studied how memory works across organic neuronal networks. Affective neuroscientists focus on how emotions work and cognitive neuroscientists focus on how thinking and consciousness work.

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