Role of Neuroscience in Business (1)
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The Role of Neuroscience in Business
More and more, the word neuroscience pops up in various aspects of life. Knowledge of the brain has entered the mainstream, everywhere from education to business, and even to popular culture. The DisneyPixar movie Inside Out is just one example of how widespread talking about the brain has become. It seems like everyone knows something about neuroscience these days. Keeping up with the new insights in employee engagement and leadership is far easier to apply in the workplace with a basic understanding of the brain and neuroscience.
What is Neuroscience?
To put it simply, neuroscience is the study of the nervous system. This includes the brain, spinal cord, and all the nerves throughout the body. Neuroscience is not just about the biology of these structures, but also includes the psychology of the brain, as well as the interactions between the nervous system and other body systems. Over the years, scientists have gained more knowledge about both the molecular structures of the brain and nervous system, and about the behaviours that result from them. There are many branches of study within neuroscience that have influenced all the sciences and sometimes even aspects of everyday life.
Using Neuroscience in Talent Management
The Brain is Plastic At one time, it was thought that once a person reached a certain age, the brain stopped developing and could not be changed. This has since been proven untrue. It may be more difficult to change some aspects of the brain after a certain time, but the brain still has a lot of plasticity throughout a person’s lifespan. The brain continues to reform and rewire itself based on how much or how little the pathways are used. That means that we can always learn new things.
Our Brains Like Rewards
Emotions are an important aspect of how the brain changes and how we learn. Positive feelings activated through the reward system of the brain enhance the pathways and improve learning. The reward system is very complex and has pathways in many areas of the brain, but often it is regulated by the neurotransmitter dopamine. These pathways and the positive feelings associated with them have been studied using illegal drugs that increase dopamine. In other studies, researchers have found that dopamine also has a role in attention and motivation. There are two main reward systems in the brain that are related to attention and motivation: primary and secondary. Primary rewards are related to primary needs like food, water, and shelter. We feel good when we have those needs met. Secondary rewards help our survival but are not vital to it. They include things like information, power, trust, touch, appreciation, and community.
Emotions are Everything
Many people want to believe that they can make decisions based exclusively on free will and their rational minds. However, research has shown that there are many unconscious processes that influence and dictate why we behave in the ways we do.
Those processes follow brain pathways that were put into place when we were very young. In most cases we have already made a decision before we have actually consciously thought about it. This happens in the limbic system. Our cerebral cortex then has to rationalise the decision through language and planning, leading to, what some may call, the illusion of free will. That is not to say that the cerebral cortex cannot influence the limbic system. is can be seen in people who practice meditation and mindfulness. When we are faced with stress or a threat, the executive functions of the brain shut down, leaving the unconscious processes of the limbic system in charge of decision making. These parts of the brain react on emotion and survival instincts.
Part 1 in a new series about The Role of Neuroscience in Business.
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