According to folk wisdom, the heart is the seat of love, wisdom, creativity, intuition, faith and compassion, etc. The finest values and qualities are associated with the heart rather than the mind. How do we know this? We know it in our heart. But, is there a scientific basis for this intuitive knowledge?
A new understanding of the word “heart” is emerging. It changes the long-held view of the heart from being merely a blood pumping station to the realisation that it is a dynamic, creative intelligence. We know that the heart has a very complex nervous system, consisting of neurons, proteins and support cells, which send information to the brain. Scientists around the world who study this nervous system actually call it the “brain in the heart”. Its elaborate circuitry actually enables the heart to act independently of the cranial brain – to learn, remember and even feel and sense.
The communication pathways from the heart travel through the emotional memory section of the brain and go all the way to the top of the brain responsible for thinking and reasoning. It is this part of the brain, the neocortex, coupled with the intelligence of the heart, which allows man to break free from past limitations and tap into new levels of innovation, ingenuity and creativity.
It is interesting to note that there is a growing amount of scientific evidence that the heart has its own ‘brain’, to such an extent that the heart can recognise information well ahead of the brain itself. Researchers at the HeartMath Institute in Boulder Creek, California, claim that the heart plays a role in the functioning of human intelligence, emotions and personality. In tests at the Institute subjects were hooked up to both EEG and EKG machines and then slowly showed test subjects, cards that had been turned face down on a table. Researchers were surprised that the heart responded to what was on the cards a full four to six seconds before they were turned over. This was verified by feedback from the EKG machine. On the other hand, the EEG did not respond until the cards had been turned over and the images seen by test subjects. In other words, the heart knew even before the facts were presented. Thus, researchers at the HeartMath Institute have provided scientific proof for what smart people have known intuitively for centuries; the heart is just as smart as the brain.
Doc Childre and Howard Martin who founded the HeartMath Institute have coined the phrase “heart-based living”. They say of it, “Heart-based living refers to all intentions and actions that express qualities of the heart in daily life. These heart qualities or core heart values can include appreciating or caring for others, expressing kindness to those around you and giving back by volunteering to work with others to relieve suffering and to help the planet. Heart-based living allows us to experience less self-centredness and separation, less judgement, more intuitive discernment and more genuine fulfilment”.
It appears that the heart acts like a master control system sending powerful healing commands to the brain and the rest of the body. It does it in four ways: neurologically, hormonally, biophysically (through blood pressure waves) and through its own electromagnetic field. This last way is particularly powerful. Howard Martin of HeartMath says that the heart is an electrical organ which produces by far the largest amount of electrical energy in our bodies – forty to sixty times as much power as the second strongest source, the brain – and that the signal is so strong it creates a magnetic field that surrounds the body in a 360 degree sphere and can be measured over a metre outside the body.
Further, the Institute maintains that the heart’s electrical field is not static but that it changes, depending on what we are feeling. For example, when we are angry, upset or frustrated, the frequencies in the field become chaotic and disordered. When we experience positive emotions like love, appreciation or compassion; however, the frequencies of the field become more ordered and coherent. In other words, we broadcast our feelings like radio waves.
At the very least, new scientific research is providing a modern understanding of many of the things that have been said about the heart’s qualities for thousands of years. Science is quickly discovering that the mind, the emotions and our energy systems are crucial parts of our effective functioning as healthy human beings and as a society.
Other scientific findings about the heart include a published study by Pearsall, Schwartz and Russek who examined heart transplant patients. They discovered otherwise, unexplainable post-surgical emotional and cognitive changes in heart transplant recipients that paralleled emotions and beliefs held by their heart donors. In other words, the recipients not only received the heart itself, but part of the personality of the donor!
According to another heart study in the New England Journal of Medicine, memory, attention and concentration somewhat declined immediately after heart bypass surgery and a similar decline was observed after five years. There are two obvious explanations for this. 1) A bypass may affect the brain blood flow, and 2) the heartlung pump used during the surgery may cause mental impairment.
So we know there is a heart-mind connection through blood circulation and the heart physically communicates with the brain and the rest of the body.
Why have I explained so much of the latest scientific facts about the heart? So that you will gain a new appreciation of the power that is within you and be motivated to take greater care of this wonderful mind-heart system that we have.