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Neuroscience: why your heart might actually be able to rule your head effectively

Source | | Jan Hills

New research has revealed that the heart plays a vital role in helping the brain to predict when musicians are about to make an error. Could this same system help business leaders make clearer decisions?

Data aids performance, and leaders know how important it is to collect and track data. When it comes to your health, it is now easy to measure and track all kinds of information. We can check our weight, blood pressure, number of steps, calories, heart rate, and blood sugar.

Recently, some researchers have started to track data that is linked to resilience and behavioural flexibility. It is called heart rate variability (HRV). Could this be the new way to improve leadership performance?

What is HRV?

HRV is a measure of the variation in time between each heartbeat. This variation is controlled by the autonomic nervous system (ANS). It regulates, among other things, our heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and digestion.

The ANS is subdivided into two parts, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the fight-or-flight mechanism and the relaxation response. This is often also referred to as the ‘threat and reward’ systems.

You will have heard me discuss their role in areas such as performance reviews and coaching.  

The brain is constantly processing information in a region called the hypothalamus.

The hypothalamus, through the ANS, sends signals to the rest of the body either to stimulate or to relax different functions.

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