What the heck is Relational Neuroscience?

Sep 7, 2020Uncategorized

What is relational neuroscience?

Relational neuroscience is an integrated field of study of what brains do in relationship.

Also known as IPNB (Interpersonal Neurobiology), relational neuroscience is an interdisciplinary study of how brains behave in relationship. The field brings together Psychology, Attachment Research, Cognitive and Social Neuroscience and Complexity Theory to create a synthesized understanding of self and other. Dr. Daniel Siegel is the primary figure in this field.

Working with cutting-edge neuroscience research, relational neuroscience is in a continual state of development and integration, supporting people to have a clear and compassionate understanding of themselves in the world and in their histories, both as individual humans and as mammals.

As people learn about themselves with resonance and understanding, they are freed to find their own way to healing and the natural expression of who they were born to be.

The essence of this work is to learn to resonate with ourselves and others so that our foundational and generous selves are unearthed from implicit entanglements and supported to be as integrated and complex as we are supposed to be.

What does healing from trauma have to do with neuroscience?

There are so many frameworks and worldviews for conceptualizing what health, wellbeing and illness even is. If you ask indigenous tribal elder on Turtle Island, a Sangoma healer in the Zulu tradition of South Africa, or a Somatic Psychotherapist trained in the United States “how do I heal from trauma?” they will all have different answers, and likely highly different definitions for what trauma even is.

There are no “correct” definitions, only various kinds of maps for integration and healing that are informed by the cultural context in which those healing modalities arose.

Within interpersonal neurobiology, we conceptualize that there are nine different domains of integration – that is, nine different dimensions by which we can see and articulate the way in which human brains heal and become more whole, in a way that’s just right for us.

The Nine Domains of Integration

When trauma is present, our brains capacity for integration is impaired. We become rigid, blocked, stuck in patterns of too much, or not enough. Domains of integration are the places in which our brains integrate as we do the trauma healing work.

The key to moving the system toward well-being is to begin to explore which elements are not differentiated and/or linked, across a spectrum of nine different domains:

  • Integration of Presence (consciousness)
  • Vertical Integration (body and mind, self-regulation, choice)
  • Horizontal Integration (left and right hemispheres)
  • Integration of Memory (emotional and factual memory)
  • Narrative Integration (the stories we tell and the sense we make of them)
  • State Integration (moving toward living in emotional states that are easier on us)
  • Temporal Integration (finding ourselves in time)
  • Interpersonal Integration (being just the right amount differentiated and just the right amount close and connected with others, in a way that works for us.)
  • Transpirational Integration (coming to feel connected to a larger whole.)

Again, there is no ideal “final resting place” for integration or wellness. Healing and wholeness are an entirely subjective experience that is up to us to determine for ourselves.

Recommended Reading

My book Your Resonant Self includes foundational elements of Relational Neuroscience and gives an overview of the field.

If you’d like to read even deeper into the foundations of Interpersonal Neurobiology, also known as Relational Neuroscience, you might enjoy these other books:

Dive deeper

To dive deeper into understanding interpersonal neurobiology, I highly recommend my book, Your Resonant Self. My book takes the foundational concepts of IPNB and adds to it the importance of the voice of the body and how resonance supports us to move into neuroplasticity, which is how the brain heals and changes.

While we so often want to resolve our problems all by ourselves, we cannot do it alone! We need other people and their kindness in order to heal and thrive. We are social animals, and our brains are meant to be soothes by other human animals.

If you’d like to deep-dive into the content of Your Resonant Self with others, I offer a live book-study group roughly once per year. You can get on the waiting list HERE and I’ll let you know when we open for registration.

Meanwhile, you might enjoy watching the original book study course recordings, which goes through the material and foundational concepts of Your Resonant Self one chapter at a time.


Ever wonder about the experience of lifelong loneliness, the tendency to push others away and the struggle to find life’s meaning that is prevalent for so many of us? Take a listen as Sarah Peyton shares the latest discoveries concerning avoidant attachment and what they reveal about possible paths we can take toward healing. 

This product is on special 2-for-1 offer: study this material with a friend for free! (At check-out, use the “additional info” section to give us the email of a friend you’d like to give a free copy to.  We will send your friend a message to get them set up with the course so you’ll both have access.)


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About Sarah

Sarah Peyton

Sarah Peyton

Sarah Peyton, international speaker and facilitator, has a passion for weaving together neuroscience knowledge and experiences of healing that unify people with their brains and bodies.

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