We are in the decade of the brain. The dominating scientific models of the first quarter of the twenty-first century will come from neurobiology. For the most stunning pictures of what is being discovered, Google Human Connectome Project.
Last year President Obama promised $100 million a year for 10 years for brain research. This year he doubled that. One private research institute in the USA has committed $500 million dollars to its neuroscience programmes. The EU is funding brain research at the Campus Biotech in Geneva to the tune of €100 million a year for 10 years.
It used to be physics that got the very big research monies. No longer is that so.
Neuroscientists as a whole are generally more interested in the brain than the person and a great deal of the modern research is driven by the clinical neurosciences. Those sciences are typically not especially interested in ordinary people, in ordinary everyday life - or even in extraordinary people. They are interested in people who need mending in one way or another.
Coaches, however, are especially interested in ordinary and extraordinary people. Coaching could be the first main profession in the commercial world to take an active and productive interest in the brain.
One speciality in the neurosciences is called cognitive social neuroscience. It is at the forefront of the way the whole of psychology is having to re-position itself as a biological rather than social science. It concerns itself actively with how the brain works in managing experiences.
One of the early and already classic pieces of work in this area was conducted in 2000 by Naomi Eisenberger working in her husband Matthew Lieberman's lab at UCLA. How similar are social pain and physical pain? she asked.
She created a small computer screen display to be watched by a person laying in an fMRI brain scanner. On the screen were projected three pairs of moving hands, organised as an inverted triangle. The experimental subject was told that the hands at the bottom of the screen belonged to him or her. The hands at each side at the top of the screen were participants with the subject in a ball game, and the hands were to pass a ball between each other.
After some little time of the game progressing, suddenly the ball started passing between only the two upper pairs of hands. The experimental subjects brain then showed reactions in the pain managing-area of the brain very similar to the reactions shown when a person experiences physical pain.
Feelings of rejection cause real pain, it seems. But with physical pains, endorphins - naturally occuring painkillers - rush to try and quell it. With emotional pain there is no such antidote. It can go on reverberating. So we begin to see the importance of having emotionally robust organisations, to which the key is the quality of relationship within which the organization exists.
Dr Paul Brown