Neuroscience as a discipline has expanded exponentially in the last twenty years. It combines a number of disciplines including neuroanatomy which looks at the organisation of the tissue in the brain, neurophysiology which investigates the functioning of individual neurons (cells) in the brain, neuropsychology which looks at the function of the brain after damage to specific areas, and neuropharmacology which studies the chemicals that carry information between neurons.
The range of techniques that can now be used to study the brain has also expanded dramatically in the last ten years. Initially, all studies of brain function used either post mortem examination of the brain, or studied the brain after injury. While these techniques were essential to the development of our current understanding, they have been superseded by the development of techniques that allow us to measure the activity in the living brain while it is thinking, reasoning, remembering, feeling…. This new ability has allowed us to substantially increase our understanding of the remarkable workings of our brain.
This new ability has led us to understand that, while individual parts (or modules) within the brain are specialised for particular functions, even the simplest of behaviours depends on the interaction of a complex network of areas acting in conjunction. Consider, for instance, the ability to read and tell a bedtime story. This requires that your eyes see, and your ears hear. It requires you to understand the markings on the page, and to convert these into spoken language. It also requires the very complex movements of your lips, tongue and larynx to create the correct speech sounds. It also requires an emotional empathy both with the characters in the book, and with the child to whom you are reading. Even turning the pages requires a complex array of activity in your brain. Thus, our brains consume the greatest amount of energy for their size in comparison to any other part of our body.
In order to understand what works in NLP and why it works, it is not necessary to have a degree in neuroscience, nor even to know the names of all of the bits of the brain and what they each do. What does help is to know a bit about the nature of the brain, what it evolved to do, and how it achieves this. It is this basic understanding of the workings of the brain that will form part of the NLP and Neuroscience programme.