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What the Neuroscience of the Heart Tells Us About Engagement

January 31, 2019 Joe Mechlinski


The heart's energy is evident in all sorts of ways – from how it communicates with the brain to how we see and work with others. I go through some of these here. 

The heart brain manufactures energy through its connection to the head brain. Consider that the brain in the heart has 40,000 neurons, a fraction of the 86 billion neurons located in the brain in the head. Still, the small cluster of neurons acts as a key portal of the neural network, pulling thoughts and ideas from the brain in the head, and releasing the subsequent energy into the world. It's a matter of connection and engagement. 

The head brain will notice if the person standing across from you is happy, but it’s only once the heart brain receives the message that it releases the oxytocin and pumps the blood at a faster rate. It will change the way the muscles in our face move. Our voices will sound different. The person standing across from you will observe and absorb these changes.

The heart communicates. We’ve all seen our share of Oscar-worthy performances. The actor can use the head brain to make the choice to use a certain accent or move his or her body in a way that properly reflects the character. Intellectualizing the role will only carry the actor so far. 

The magic happens when the actor can put himself or herself in the emotional space of the character he or she is playing. The heart has to be pumping at the right rate that will allow the voice to crack just perfectly right before breaking down in tears, or it won’t be believable.

This energy comes through when the heart, and the heart brain, are engaged at work. You will have more energy. You will be able to communicate better. The difficult thing is finding a workplace that creates engagement for its workers through acknowledging the heart-brain connection. 

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