Have you heard of the “cardiac brain?” You might be familiar with the concept of the stomach/gut/enteric nervous system as the “second brain.” There is now a body of growing research that supports the theory that the heart functions as its own “brain” and exhibits its own consciousness, “Far more than a simple pump, as was once believed, the heart is now recognized by scientists as a highly complex system with its own functional “brain.”
Let’s just dive right in:
• Research in the new discipline of neurocardiology shows that the heart is a sensory organ and a sophisticated center for receiving and processing information. The nervous system within the heart (or “heart brain”) enables it to learn, remember, and make functional decisions independent of the brain’s cerebral cortex. Moreover, numerous experiments have demonstrated that the signals the heart continuously sends to the brain influence the function of higher brain centers involved in perception, cognition, and emotional processing.
• The heart generates the body’s most powerful and most extensive rhythmic electromagnetic field. Compared to the electromagnetic field produced by the brain, the electrical component of the heart’s field is about 60 times greater in amplitude, and permeates every cell in the body. The magnetic component is approximately 5000 times stronger than the brain’s magnetic field and can be detected several feet away from the body with sensitive magnetometers.
• We have demonstrated, for example, that brain rhythms naturally synchronize to the heart’s rhythmic activity, and also that during sustained feelings of love or appreciation, the blood pressure and respiratory rhythms, among other oscillatory systems, entrain to the heart’s rhythm.
This may sound pretty far out right here. Obviously, there are many implications involved if the theories presented continue to prove positive (which they do). We take certain terms for granted like, “emotional intelligence,” but in the context of these findings emotional intellect takes on a much more serious meaning. What about the implications of emotional health and wellbeing on the physical body? On this blog we often refer to the “physical,” “emotional,” and “mental” bodies and their interconnectedness. That being said, if we take the third bullet point above to be indicative of how emotional states effect our physiology than everything we have said before about the importance of working with emotions when rehabilitating the physical (and obviously the mental) body is much more true and important than previously understood. (By the way, here’s a good place to mention a book, Molecules of Emotion. If you haven’t read it yet…Just Read It!).
There is an institute that, gratefully, dedicates its funds and time to studying the phenomenon of the heart-brain. It is called HeartMath and its study of the intelligent heart has shaken (“vibrated” if you will) previously held scientific beliefs about the human body to their core. HeartMath believes in and uses scientific research that proves that the heart can independently send messages to the brain, effectively doing away with the one-way only brain dominant brain-to-heart communication model:
The Laceys noticed that this simple model only partially matched actual physiological behavior. As their research evolved, they found that the heart seemed to have its own peculiar logic that frequently diverged from the direction of the autonomic nervous system. The heart appeared to be sending meaningful messages to the brain that it not only understood, but obeyed. Even more intriguing was that it looked as though these messages could affect a person’s behavior. Shortly after this, neurophysiologists discovered a neural pathway and mechanism whereby input from the heart to the brain could “inhibit” or “facilitate” the brain’s electrical activity.
Wow, Wow, Wow…Awesome. A piece written in 2007, by Professor Mohamed Omar Salem sums up nicely that there is now room in the scientific field, where there wasn’t previously, for the exploration of what we have always called the “spirit” within the physical body. No longer must we believe that conscious awareness originates only in the brain. (This article my seem a little “woo woo” for some people. If it is go back to HeartMath where “Neurocardiology” is grounded in hard science.).
The main point of this post is to share new research, to stay true to our belief that one should question everything, and to whet your appetites into exploring new ways in which our perceptions of and interactions with the world may be redefined. The video below, from HeartMath, demonstrates how exploring this new scientific field can illuminate how we effect one another in our daily interactions. The implication is that the better we behave and feel towards other people and ourselves, the better the physical bodies do. We’ve said that for a long time, but now we are closer to having “legitimate” proof.”