The Emotional Heart
The brain has always been considered to be the think tank of your body. It is the organ that is known to carry thoughts, feelings, urges, and emotions. Every single word that comes out of your mouth and every movement your hand makes is controlled by the brain. The origin of your creativity and imagination lies in the brain as well. The development in medical science has elevated the importance of the brain in human civilization. It is funny to think that this highly significant organ was once not as important as it is today. Instead of the brain, people identified the heart, the emotional heart, as the source of all our feelings and thoughts. According to the latest research, there could be some degree of truth to the belief that the heart has a greater function than simply pumping blood throughout your body.
Ancient Belief Systems: How Important Was the Brain?
If you go through the historical records that are still preserved today, you will discover that people of ancient communities did not associate feelings and thoughts with the brain. This is why we keep saying, “Do what your heart tells you to do.” It is natural for human beings to believe that the heart is in control of the mind. For instance, the people of ancient Egypt didn’t believe that it was important to preserve the brains of the kings and queens in the way they preserved the other organs during the notorious process of mummification. Those people firmly believed that the heart had a much more important role to play when it came to creating and controlling thoughts and emotions. This is why ripping out somebody’s heart was considered to be the ultimate form of insult in warfare.
An Exaggerated Association of Thought with the Brain
Things have changed drastically today. If someone were to tell you that the heart is the center of our intelligence or is even remotely responsible for our intellectual ability, or even this idea of an Emotional Heart then you would probably laugh at them. Most people think of the heart as nothing but a pump in the circulatory system that is vital to keep blood flowing through our arteries and veins. A pump such as the heart is not meant to harbor thoughts, emotions, and memories as the brain does. But the reality could be far different from what we have believed it to be.
Medical Science: Has It Advanced?
Maybe, we don’t know much about the heart after all. Perhaps, medical science has not advanced to the point where we can conclusively state that the purpose of the heart is restricted to pumping out blood. It would not be unfair to say that our modern association of thought and emotion with the brain may have been drawn out of proportion.
Heart: A Symbol of Love, Intuition, and Morals
The association of intelligence with the heart has not been completely diminished by modern science. We have retained the notion that the heart is somehow responsible for the emotions that we experience. Most of us are aware of the fact that this association has more to do with culture than science. Despite that, the heart has remained the most popular and iconic symbol of the greatest human emotion, love.
Heart: A Mark of Intuition and Morals
Besides symbolizing love, the heart has been used as a mark of intuition and morals. This is why we keep using phrases like, “The killer had a stone cold heart.” In reality, most of the people who are using these phrases are not asking you to stop what you are doing and find out how the behavior of your heart has changed. In most cases, the heart is simply being used as a metaphor for your intuition. But you must have thought about the connection between the heart and the emotions at least once in your life.
Emotional Stress and the Heart
At the most fundamental level, we know that changes in emotional stress can have a heavy influence on the health of our hearts. The heart has to endure added strain when the emotional stress piles up. In the most extreme cases, this leads to heart attacks in individuals who have had to deal with intense emotional stress for an extended period. In addition to that, the heart pumps out blood which is the carrier of hormones and neuropeptides that are known to transmit emotional information to the brain. When you take these into account, it becomes much more scientifically acceptable to draw a connection between the heart and your overall state of emotions. However, could the connection be stronger than this?
A Brain with a Heart
In a surprising discovery made recently, Dr. Andrew Armour, who is a well know neurologist from Montreal, Canada, found a small, complex network of neurons in the heart. Neurons are cells that are found in the brain, which is known to be responsible for creating and transferring human thoughts, emotions, and feelings. According to Dr. Amour, the small network of neurons is “the little brain inside the heart.” Surprisingly, these neurons in the heart have the ability to contain both short and long term memory. Why does the heart need neurons to include memory when there is an entire brain to perform that function? There is a lot of muscle coordination that goes on inside the heart to ensure that it works correctly.
The Little Brain In Your Heart
The so-called little brain in the heart that we have discussed is partly responsible for the success of heart transplantation. When the heart is removed, it is cooled so that it can stay alive for a certain number of hours. Even though the parent body is dead, the cells within the heart keep functioning. Once the blood from the new parent body enters the heart, it starts to beat again. The long-term memory stored in the little brain in the heart is what allows the organ to remember how to beat again.
Communication between the Heart and the Brain
It is worth mentioning that there is plenty of communication that goes on between the heart and the brain.
Numerically speaking, there are about 40,000 neurons inside your heart with which the organ establishes direct communication with the brain. The hormones from the heart are pumped out through the blood. They travel to different parts of the body through the blood stream. Pulse waves of pressure and electromagnetic energy are created every time the heart beats. These waves travel to various regions of the body before eventually reaching the brain.
Did you know that the magnetic field that is generated by the human heart is 5000 times stronger than the one produced by the brain? This magnetic field is so strong that you can measure it from a distance of six feet from the body. Some theories suggest that the effects of the magnetic field extend further. However, the distance of six feet is pretty much all that our current sensing equipment can pick up. I bet this is why we “feel” emotions of people we don’t even know when they walk into the room.
Picking Up Information from the Heart
We often don’t think about the fact that the brain does not contain the entire nervous system. It is simply a part of the whole system that extends to single part of the body. For instance, the nerves that are in our hands are in constant communication with the brain. This has led to the belief that there is some degree of truth to ancient forms of palm reading. If there is a constant connection between the brains and the nerves beneath the palm of our hands, then it is not beyond the realm of possibility for our personalities to materialize in the form of lines on the skin of our palms. Much like the palms, the human heart is in constant communication with the brain.
What Surprised Me
I was shocked to learn that 10-15% of all heart donation recipients report bizarre changes in their tastes, personalities, and memories. What is even more mind-boggling is that these changes make them behave and think like the original owners of the hearts. Are these recipients picking up information? Information stored in the complex network of neurons that are there in the hearts of the donors? Or is this just a coincidence?
Further research needs to be conducted in this field before we can draw up any conclusions. Some scientists and doctors are convinced that “heart memories” do exist. Perhaps soon science will tell us that the neurons in the heart are partly responsible for feelings and emotions. I believe in Emotional Heart has a brain!
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