Improving Assertiveness with Neuroscience. Threat or Fear System

How can we increase assertiveness with neuroscience? Assertiveness is in average point between aggressiveness and passivity. The brain’s threat (or fear) System when mismanaged causes us to distance from this balance point. We will see, however, that we have resources in our brain that help us to be more assertive.

We will start with the concept of assertiveness. Then we will approach it from the point of view of the neuroscience. What happens in the brain that hinders assertiveness? How can we take advantage of the fundamentals of neuroscience that we learn with NeuroQuotient to increase assertiveness?

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Hebb’s rule with an analogy. Psychology and neuroscience

Hebb’s rule or Hebb’s law or Hebbian theory is fundamental to understand the relationship between psychology and neuroscience. To approach it we will go back to the original work of Donald O. Hebb and, later on, we will explain it through an analogy that will facilitate our understanding.

Linking psychology and neuroscience thanks to Donald O. Hebb

To talk about psychology and neuroscience, with the purpose of explaining behaviour through its cerebral foundations, we need to go back to Donald O. Hebb.

Donald Hebb is the creator of the most mentioned ‘principle’ in psychobiology, or behavioural neuroscience.From the so-called Hebb’s law, or Hebb’s rule of the Hebbian learning (Hebb learning rule).We will see it through an analogy by the end of this post.

Before, it’s worth remembering that with  NeuroQuotient , starting from the cerebral basis of behaviour, we have a tool that makes accessible the relationship between psychology and neuroscience.In this way, we can apply neuroscience to the development of people in a practical and efficient way.

But, practicality, efficiency and accessibility, does not mean superficiality. For this reason, before going into the analogy it is worthwhile to visit the origins. To Donald Olding Hebb. In the same way that, when dealing with the model behind the DISC tool, we went to the original approach of William Moulton Marston.

Donald O. Hebb and his contribution

Donald Olding Hebb (1904-1985) was a Canadian psychologist pioneer of neuropsychology (of the study of the relationship between psychology and neuroscience).

His most important contribution is condensed in the book, The Organization of Behavior: A Neuropsychological Theory , John Willey and Sons (1949).

The book ‘The Organization of Behavior’ gives us a theory about behaviour, based on the physiology of the nervous system. It makes an important attempt to find the common between neurological and psychological conceptions.

Hebb says to us: “One objective of this book is to present a theory of behaviour for the consideration of psychologists. But another objective is to pursue a common basis with anatomists, physiologists and neurologists (now, we could group them as neuroscientists).We show how psychological theory is related to their problems and, at the same time, make them contribute to this theory ”

He adds, too, that “the problem of understanding behaviour is to understand the total action of the nervous system, and vice versa.”

In his purpose to build bridges between psychology and neuroscience (incipient then), in 1944 he came in contact with Rafael Lorente de Nó (a Spanish researcher, a disciple of Santiago Ramón y Cajal, based in the USA).Hebb based part of his theory on the works on the ‘sensory loops of Lorente de Nó’.

The Hebb’s principle or Hebb’s rule

Hebb says that “when the axon of a cell A is close enough to excite a B cell and takes part on its activation in a repetitive and persistent way, some type of growth process or metabolic change takes place in one or both cells, so that increases the efficiency of cell A in the activation of B “.

‘neurons that fire together wire together’

It is customary to be summarized as “neurons that fire together wire together”.That is, the simultaneous activation of nearby neurons leads to an increase in the strength of synaptic connection between them.

It is important to note that the neurons must be previously connected, sufficiently close to one another, so that the synapse can be reinforced.

At early 1970s, LTP (long term potentiation) was discovered, which confirmed Hebb’s theory.It was demonstrated that morphological changes take place, splitting into the receptor dendrites of the hippocampus, which reinforce the synaptic connection.

In short, Hebb’s principle is fundamental for the relationship between psychology and neuroscience, since it provides a general framework for relating learning and behaviour with neural networks.

The analogy. At last!

70 years after the Hebb’s theory, the relationship between psychology and neuroscience is out of the question.It is very clear that behaviour originates in the brain and is based on neural networks or patterns.

Let’s see now how we can explain Hebb’s principle through an analogy.

The grooves on a hill that get deeper as more water flows down them, help us visualize Hebb’s principle and its relation to behaviour.

Imagine a small artificial hill of earth (Fig. 1).

In it there are some small grooves (Fig. 1. left) that would be equivalent to the pre-existing inactive synapses.

When it rains with repetition and persistence, some of these grooves become deeper and the water descends mainly through them (Fig. 1. right). Similarly, some pre-existing synaptic connections when activated, with their use, become stronger. The assembly of several strongly connected neurons becomes the basis of a learning or habit.

psychology and neuroscience
Fig1 Some of the small furrows on the left, with rain, with use, become large furrows where the water goes down.

In the Neuroquotient context, we call neuro-behaviours to the habits, learnings or, better, behaviour patterns: brain connections that give rise to a complex behavior (doing, thinking and feeling) that is repeated more likely and easier.

When we conduct ourselves (thinking, doing, feeling) in a certain way, the underlying neuronal connections are activated and reinforced.   In this way, the frequency and intensity of the corresponding behaviour increases.

Thus, the behaviour is based on some powerful neuronal connections, for this reason it is difficult to change it.Coming back to the analogy, the deeper the grooves are, the more likely it is that water descends through them.

If the neuro-behaviours bring us little or no satisfaction, if they limit us, it is worth changing them

It is very good of having brain patterns that guide our complex behaviour; our way of thinking and feeling.Without them we would have to start from scratch every day.

But, is it, always, ok?Well, it depends on the results (satisfaction) that are derived from our behaviour. It depends on where it goes to stop the water from the grooves.

Remember that the neuroquotient tool helps us to become aware of when it is worthwhile to insist on the groove, or if it is worth changing. We become more aware of our Efficiencies (neuro-behaviours with satisfactory results) and Limitations (patterns that do not contribute to our satisfaction).

And yes, of course, when a neuro behaviour is limiting us, then it is worth changing it

Is it possible to do it?  And if is it possible, how?

But, this we will deal with in some post in the future.

The DISC personality test and NeuroQuotient. Similarities and differences.

It is likely that we are here looking for information about the DISC personality test. But, how we are attracted by innovation, we can also take the opportunity to learn about NeuroQuotient. The neuro tool that allows to apply neuroscience to coaching and people development in a practical and efficient way.

Anyway, if your interest does not go beyond the DISC personality test, you will find more information in this same blog – ” DISC model and DISC personality assessment tools for development (tools 5)”

In the current post we compare NeuroQuotient with the DISC personality test. So, we can see the most outstanding features of both tools.

Although, the best way to know NeuroQuotient, is to sign up for one of the free online workshops. And to continue with the Certification to be able to use the neuro tool to its full potential.

But, now, let’s follow another approach. We will take as reference the DISC personality test and we will compare it with NeuroQuotient in certain relevant aspects, seeing similarities and differences. The DISC personality test is the most widely used coaching and leadership development tool. We have already seen it in this blog.

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ADHD in High-IQ children and neuroscience. Overcoming the Attention Deficit Disorder (series ADHD-1)

A post about the ADHD, attention deficit disorder, in children with a high IQ (Intelligence Quotient) help to us to approach this disorder with NeuroQuotient and to understand its neurological pathways. When we understand what happens in the brain, we can design strategies to overcome it in a functional way. Then, these people can take advantage of their high potential.

Since a long time we have been interested in the neurological foundations of ADHD (attention deficit disorder). This interest was previous to the NeuroQuotient® creation. More in cases where it is related to a high intelligence quotient, IQ, (gifted people). And, moreover, when there is no physical hyperactivity (ADD without H).

Anyway, although more focused on these points of interest, what is dealt with in this post is valid for the ADHD in a whole way. Above all, with regard to the brain structures that influence the attention deficit disorder, and how the neuro tool helps us to understand them and to think of ways of coping.

We have already approached on the ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder, when talking about the timeline in the brain.

But now, we have just found a post from 2011 by Thomas E. Brown, totally relevant. It will be very helpful for approaching directly the subject. The mysteries of ADHD and high IQ.

The article is from 2011, but nonetheless it is very interesting as a starting point for reflection and to connect the ADD (attention deficit disorder) with its brain foundations.

In this post, the author tell us about a study conducted with 117 gifted people, children and adolescents, with a high IQ and diagnosed with ADHD (both with hyperactivity and without hyperactivity).

What are the most frequent symptoms in ADHD (attention deficit disorder)?

Before summarizing the article it is worth to remember some of the symptoms that occur with ADD in the school:

 

  • Difficulty in keeping the attention on work;
  • Struggling to do the work properly.
  • Difficulty to keep in mind what they have heard or read.
  • Difficulty to organize and complete what is assigned to them.
  • Procrastination is also very common.

These symptoms are attributed to a certain vulnerability in executive functions. Those of the prefrontal cortex (CPF).

What happens in gifted children with ADD (attention deficit disorder)? How do they evolve in adolescence and later?

Brown speaks us about 5 points that the parents and the teachers find and which are confirmed in their study. We completely agree all of them:

1. In most of the studied cases there is no hyperactivity. That is, it is about ADD (attention deficit disorder. Not about ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
2. ADDs children can have a high IQ (Intelligence quotient). In fact, it is the premise of the study. That is to say, they do not lack mental abilities, but they have difficulties to take advantage of them to do the work in an effective way.
3. Many gifted children are successful students in elementary school and fail recurrently in the high school. Some do not start having problems until college.

In fact, often they arrive further depending on the support of the parents in helping them to prioritize, plan and follow up to complete the work.

4. All the participants in the study have some activity in which they do not present any difficulty to exercise successfully their prefrontal executive functions.

It is why, the most respond: “If something really interests me, I can keep the focus. But, if I do not find it really interesting, then I can’t. Even if it’s important and I need to do it. ”

5. Can it be overcome in adulthood? In 80% of cases, the basic problem persists. But, some surpass it. Some because, simply, they have a delay of 2-3 years in the cortical development and as they grow the problem disappears. Others outgrow it with medication.

Anyway, in many cases, while remaining the difficulties, they have a good incorporation to the labor world. This is because they specialize in jobs that are interesting to them, and they perform them successfully.

How does neuroscience help us to better understand what happens with ADD (attention deficit disorder)?

But, we have to remember that the purpose of this paper is to connect Brown’s conclusions with the brain foundations, taking advantage of the knowledge of neuroscience that is acquired with the certification in NeuroQuotient®.

Broadly, we agree the Brown’s approach. However, we think he simplifies too much concerning to the brain bases. He centers all the problems on the difficulties of certain prefrontal functions. Let’s see why we think in this way:

In point 5, Brown talks about medication. Specifically, of the medication with dopamine enhancers.

Certainly, dopamine is the central neurotransmitter of the brain reward system. The reward system favors behaviors by rewarding them with pleasure. Although -it worth to remember- dopamine does not produce pleasure.

There are three important dopamine pathways in the brain.

One of them is the mesocortical. It goes from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) in the mesencephalon to the prefrontal cortex. This pathway favors focus and attention. If there is not enough mesocortical dopamine, there are difficulties in some prefrontal functions. What Brown tells us: prefrontal vulnerability.

But, the other two pathways are also very important and the consequences of the lack of dopamine in ADD (attention deficit disorder) are also glimpsed, albeit indirectly, in Brown’s post.

On the one hand, the so-called mesolimbic route. It goes from the mesencephalon (the same VTA) to a limbic area of the brain (the nucleus accumbens). This is the one that is involved in motivation. In the desire. In point 4, Brown says that when something really motivates them they do it, without presenting problems of concentration.

In ADD (attention deficit disorder, there is not only vulnerability in the prefrontal zone (mesocortical pathway), but also in the limbic part of the brain involved in the approach motivation (mesolimbic pathway).

Our point of view is that the lack of motivation lies, also, in the general deficit of the dopaminergic system. There is also little mesolimbic dopamine. When the interest increases, motivation and concentration grow at the same time. Therefore, by potentiating dopamine with medication, motivation and concentration increase simultaneously. So, that’s why, to overcome the problem it, also, makes sense to look for ways to influence on endogenous dopamine.

The third dopaminergic pathway is the one that goes from the ‘substantia nigra’ -in the mesencephalon, also- to the dorsal striatum and is related to habits. Because of this, they also have difficulty in creating habits. Problem that underlies, mainly, in the little capacity to organize themselves.

Complementing the medication, in childhood and pre-adolescence, with a support aimed at the creation of habits, is a great help to achieve a functional ADD later on.

Overcoming the ADD (attention deficit disorder) means that these people generate the resources that allow them to take advantage of their great potential. NeuroQuotient helps us to understand it.

In 80% of cases, ADD is difficult to overcome in adulthood, but it is not so difficult to reach a functional ADD. Even with great success. Where is the key?

NeuroQuotient explains it to us.

Before, remembering that the neuro tool should not be used to diagnose psychological disorders. However, it is an indicator of some of them when some of the limitations (gray bars) are large; when they are in the last frame.

Let’s look at the case of two people with a high IQ index. One with functional ADD and the other does not. In the following image we compare the graphs.

ADHD in High-IQ children and neuroscience. Overcoming the Attention Deficit Disorder
Higher level of self-leadership in functional ADD. It is seen in a greater efficiency A2 (higher tangible results, greater self-assurance) and lower limitation I2 (higher self-esteem).

In both we see that the limitation A1, which points to ADD (attention deficit disorder), is very high.

The difference between functional ADD (right) and non-functional ADD (left) is in the greater self-confidence acquired with the achievement of tangible results (higher green bar). And in the subsequent higher self-esteem (smaller gray I2 bar).

Overall, the NQ index that measures the level of self-leadership (how high are the efficiencies and how low are the limitations) is clearly superior with functional ADD. 71.9 versus 51.0.

How to focus development? The neuro tool explains it to us.

What is the way for development? The key is that we focus on a topic of interest (motivator) that, at the same time, provides us valuable tangible results. The achievement of results will help us to increase self-confidence and self-motivation.

So, we’ll It break the cycle of frustration derived of moving by impulses to non-valuable purposes, and with a scattered mind. One key is to stop the search of the immediate reward. (Do you remember the marshmallow test?)

Organization, working with method, logically, also helps to avoid dispersion and the achievement of results. That’s why, a support to generate these habits, as soon as possible, is very important.

Gifted children do not need organization and method to overcome challenges at school. They supplement it with their intelligence. However, as they grow up, when the difficulties become greater, they find that they have not generated the resources (organizational habits) that the rest of us mortals use.