Neuroscience beyond neurochemical and brain part functions

When neuroscience is applied well in real life it can be insightful and helpful rather than just describing brain parts and neurochemicals. Yesterday I went for a health check at SOZA Health. I was a bit nervous as I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Last year Mark did the free NHS one and wasn’t happy afterwards. Two visits and three weeks later, all he got told was that his cholesterol was high and to reduce it or take statins. He didn’t seem to get any more than that from it. My check-up took 45mins and the report was instantly ready so Dr Tomasz George talked me through it. Glad to say I am in very good shape and there were a couple of areas he felt I could improve. Not surprisingly my mental stress reaction could be better and I now have some very specific actions to take. My magnesium levels are slightly deficit which doesn’t help with the stress reaction and yet I take a supplement. He recommended absorbing it through the skin as this is much more effective. The check covers nine major categories, each with sub categories which is where I needed to focus. The 33 page report covers all those categories and gives possible options for improvement. Needless to say Mark is booking an appointment tomorrow.

Apologies for the silence at the end of October, with holiday and work it went into free-fall. The blog would have been rushed and caused more stress which I promised myself it would not do: I want to enjoy blogging. The only downside is that there has been so much happening; I’ll need to be terse. So. At September’s meeting I defended my research topic and it went well. Magically the ‘you can’t do this‘ went away and the conversation focussed on how. I learned a lot: If they push you need to push back – so get your arguments solid; they ask questions so know when to deflect rather than answer them; get the language that works – “I want to develop an explanatory model rather than a descriptive model” works and “I don’t want to deal with just concepts” doesn’t. (Jedi mind tricks and Dr Who’s blank card come to mind.)

One hurdle over. Now to tackle the next. The ‘how’ is a large question but a good conversation with my Advisor really helped. The Delphi Method looks as if it combines what my supervisor is interested in and being able to stand a chance of getting a doctorate too. It is used for complex or ambiguous issues where there may be incomplete or conflicting information. A panel of experts anonymously create, through iterative rounds, predictions of forward thinking, future direction or new theories. It needs a robust question to be posed for it to work though. Currently my ‘how’ question is, to understand which are the significant conversations that the experts recommend coaches should be listening to: What do they think will give us the biggest insights into how our coachees operate as human beings in the world which would sharpen our coaching practices and enable coachee’s to making enduring change. This came from needing to write a short piece for a poster at my university’s coaching conference.

On holiday I read ‘Connectome’ by Sebastian Seung. I learned so much that I didn’t know about neurons and brain functions, such as the fact that neurons having a weighting system for incoming excitation from other neurons. Therefore not all synapses have the same impact. And there are inhibitory neurons which drain electrical energy away from a neuron. It’s very readable although it was sobering around how much plasticity you really have. Now I need to get updated on this area as it may be this Central Integrator is a weighting system, or function, rather than a part of the brain.

The other aspect is to find a more easily understood phrase than ‘central integrator’ especially as I am now broadening my thoughts as to what that could be. I asked a Coaching Forum meeting to help with this and they spent twenty minutes coming up with new ideas. Someone articulated my question better than I had by writing “The bit that decides how we work”. So does Central Integrator sum up ‘the bit (mechanism) that decides how we work’? They had lots of intriguing words and phrases for me to check out.

Homo Deus is another book I have read. It is engrossing, provocative and I hope it’s wrong although my son concurred with the scenario. It sounded familiar to me as well and I agree with his summation of why and how we have ‘controlled’ people thus far. Some of his analogies annoyed me as, for me, he switched analogy part way through to prove his point:- Motivation is a conceptual energy whereas electrical energy in a neuron is not. I know motivation boils down to neurons but he was not using it in that way. On this point of levels of abstraction in language, I have had to pull out my book on Language in Action to be able to reduce the number of abstract conversations that it can be easy to fall into with academics. I know they have their uses, abstract conversations that is, and I don’t want to have those at that time. I think I realise why a doctorate takes 4-5 years as there is a lot of other parts to it. I will definitely have completed a huge amount of personal development and hopefully at some stage actually got into researching my topic.

Last week Middlesex University had a coaching conference and finally I have sorted out my ontology and epistemology. Alison Hodge’s presentation and seeing some others, gave me the courage to say what I felt. So I am definitely a pragmatist. I am also happy to move along the continuum from Post-positivist (explanatory) to Constructionist (descriptive) although in this context I definitely want to be closer to post-positivism