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I am in a narrow tunnel. I cannot move. My ears are covered, yet I hear a noise, like a monster ready to devour me. A nightmare? No, I am lying in an fMRI scanner while being exposed to visual stimuli. In the room next to me, scientists are observing what happens in my brain. Brain scanning. A while ago, I was introduced to it not only as a branding researcher, but as guinea pig as well. It was impressive to lie there. To have conscious thoughts about the images I saw, while realizing that the researchers could see my unconscious feelings. For example, I was shown pornography and thought "not for me." But what did I subconsciously feel? Could others see that, without knowing it, I found it very attractive?

"People can not tell what they think, simply because they do not know" neuroscientists say. We post-rationalize our behavior, while having no idea what our true motives are. I'm convinced. Many irrational decisions and actions in my life proof it. It’s great that there are alternatives to self-reporting methods and that brain research is now extending from the medical discipline into the branding business. It provides opportunities to develop new knowledge and create beautiful brands that feel good.

And although there are still a thousand questions to answer about the validity and applicability of brain scanning, my curiosity is already aroused by other ideas, stories and research. As we now know better than ever that our subconscience steers our behavior, shouldn’t we look further than the brain?

According to the Institute of HeartMath, our heart, just like our brain, unconsciously guides our behavior. Attraction and repulsion can be measured by the rhythm of our heartbeat. Heart and brain work together according to the neuro-cardiologists, but the heart has a much greater impact on the organisms around us, because it’s electromagnetic field is 5000 times as powerful than the brain’s. Through our hearts we unconsciously communicate with other individuals and are always connected.

But also non-Western science provides inspiration for further thinking about our behavior and the subconscious. A good friend traveled the world and came back reborn, after spending the last days of his trip with shamans, intermediaries between the human world and the spirits world. Influenced by the plant medicine Ayahuasca and treated with twigs, he underwent a complete physical, mental and spiritual reset. An incredible story, but certainly not implausible. The ancient knowledge of these cultures surpasses our Western science at least in age.

It will take years if not decades before we are able to better explain our behavior and we will probably never completely get it. Combining existing ideas creates the best new knowledge. Maybe next time I take some Ayahuasca before I lie down in the scanner?

By Kim Cramer

Original post at SWOCC http://www.swocc.nl/column/over-het-brein-het-hart-en-ayahuasca.php (in Dutch)