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Basheer and Rafeeque: The heart as the centre of consciousness

During organ transplantation there have been numerous reports of emotions, memories and experiences being transferred along with the organ from donor to recipient.

Dr Pearsall, an American cardiologist, has collected the cases of 73 heart transplant patients and 67 other organ transplant recipients and published them in his book The Heart’s Code.1 Here is a sample of a reported case.

Case 1: Claire Sylvia develops desire for chicken nuggets and green peppers.

On 29 May, 1988 an American woman named Claire Sylvia received a heart transplant at a hospital in Yale, Connecticut. She was told that her donor was an eighteen year-old male from Maine, USA who had just died in a motorcycle accident. Soon after her operation, Sylvia declared that she felt like drinking beer, something she hadn’t particularly been fond of. Later, she observed an uncontrollable urge to eat chicken nuggets and found herself drawn to visiting the popular chicken restaurant chain, KFC. She also began craving green peppers which she hadn’t particularly liked before. She had an immense attraction toward the cool colors. She started behaving in an aggressive and impetuous manner following the surgery. Sylvia also began having recurring dreams about a mystery man named Tim L, whom she felt was the organ donor. On a hint from someone, she searched for obituaries in newspapers published from Maine and was able to identify the young man whose heart she had received. His name had indeed been Tim. After visiting Tim’s family, she discovered that he used to love chicken nuggets, green peppers and beer. These experiences are documented in her book, A Change of Heart.2

Dr Paul Pearsall, The Heart’s Code1

In 1974, the French researchers Gahery and Vigier, working with cats, stimulated the vagus nerve (which carries many of the signals from the heart to the brain) and found that the brain’s electrical response was reduced to about half its normal rate on stimulating the vagus nerve.3

The heart appeared to be sending meaningful messages to the brain that it not only understood, but also obeyed.4 Later, neurophysiologists discovered a neural pathway and mechanism whereby input from the heart to the brain could inhibit or facilitate the brain’s electrical activity.5

Dr Armour introduced the idea of a functional ‘heart brain’.6 His research revealed that the heart has a complex intrinsic nervous system that is sufficiently refined to qualify as a ‘little brain’ in its own right because of its independent existence. The heart’s nervous system contains around 40 000 neurons, called sensory neurites. The ‘heart brain’ is an intricate network of several types of neurons, neurotransmitters, proteins and support cells similar to those found in the brain. Its elaborate circuitry enables it to act independently of the brain to learn, remember and even feel and sense.6 Information from the heart, including feeling sensations, is sent to the brain through several afferents. These afferent nerve pathways enter the brain at the area of the medulla, and cascade up into the higher centres of the brain, where they may influence perception, decision making and other cognitive processes.7

When heart rhythm patterns are coherent, the neural information sent to the brain facilitates cortical function. This effect is often experienced as heightened mental clarity, improved decision making and increased creativity. In addition, coherent input from the heart tends to facilitate the experience of feeling positive.8 States of increased heart rhythm coherence are associated with improvements in cognitive performance.9 The brain’s alpha wave activity is synchronized to the cardiac cycle. During states of high heart rhythm coherence, alpha wave synchronization to the heart’s activity significantly increases.9

The heart’s afferent neurological signals directly affect activity in the amygdala and associated nuclei, an important emotional processing centre in the brain. The amygdala is the key brain centre that coordinates behavioural, immunological and neuroendocrine responses to environmental threats. It compares incoming emotional signals with stored emotional memories and, accordingly, makes instantaneous decisions about the level of perceived threat. Owing to its extensive connections to the limbic system, it is able to take over the neural pathways, activating the autonomic nervous system and emotional response before the higher brain centres receive the sensory information.10

The heart communicates information to the brain, and throughout the body, via electromagnetic field interactions. The heart generates the body’s most powerful and most extensive rhythmic electromagnetic field. The heart’s magnetic component is about 500 times stronger than the brain’s magnetic field and can be detected several feet away from the body. It has been proposed that this heart field acts as a carrier wave for information that provides a global synchronizing signal for the entire body.11 There is now evidence that an influential electromagnetic communication system operates just below our conscious awareness. Energetic interactions possibly contribute to the ‘magnetic’ attractions or repulsions that occur between individuals, and also affect social relationships. It was also found that one person’s brain waves can synchronize to another person’s heart.12 When people touch, or are in proximity, one person’s heartbeat signal is registered in the other person’s brain waves.3 When two people are at a conversational distance, the electromagnetic signal generated by one person’s heart can influence the other person’s brain rhythms. When an individual is generating a coherent heart rhythm, synchronization between that individual’s brain waves and another person’s heartbeat is more likely to occur.3

Individuals capable of generating high ratios of heart coherence were able to alter DNA conformation according to their intention. Intending to denature (unwind) or renature (wind) the DNA had corresponding effects on the ultraviolet spectra.13 As people learn to sustain heart-focused positive-feeling states, the brain can be brought into entrainment with the heart.3 In conclusion that the heart has a clear independent existence and control over the human brain, allowing the heart to become the centre of consciousness.



Pearsall P. The Heart’s Code: Tapping the Wisdom and Power of our Heart Energy. New York, NY: Broadway Books; 1999.


Sylvia C. A Change of Heart: A Memoir. New York, NY: Warner Books; 1997.


McCraty R. The Science of the Heart: Exploring the Role of Heart in Human Performance. Boulder Creek, CA: Heartmath Research Center, Institute of Heartmath; 2001.


Lacey JI, Lacey BC. Two-way communication between the heart and the brain. Significance of time within the cardiac cycle. Am Psychol 1978; 33:99–113.


McCraty R. Influence of cardiac afferent input on heart–brain synchronization and cognitive performance. Int J Psychophysiol 2002; 45:72–3.


Armour JA. Anatomy and function of the intrathoracic neurons regulating the mammalian heart. In: Zucker IH, Gilmore JP (eds). Reflex Control of the Circulation. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1991, pp. 1–3.


Armour JA. Cardiac neuronal hierarchy in health and disease. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 2004; 287:R262–71.


Tiller W, McCraty R, Atkinson M. Cardiac coherence: a new non-invasive measure of autonomic system order. Altern Ther Health Med 1996; 2:52–65.


McCraty R, Atkinson M. Influence of Afferent Cardiovascular Input on Cognitive Performance and Alpha Activity. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Pavlovian Society, Tarrytown, NY; 1999.


Rein G, McCraty R, Atkinson M. The physiological and psychological effects of compassion and anger. J Adv Med 1995; 8:87–105.


McCraty R, Bradley RT, Tomasino D. The resonant heart. Shift: At the Frontiers of Consciousness 2004; 5:15–19.


McCraty R. The energetic heart: bioelectromagnetic communication within and between people. In: Rosch PJ, Markov MS (eds). Clinical Applications of Bioelectromagnetic Medicine. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker; 2004, pp. 541–62.


McCraty R, Atkinson M, Tomasino D. Modulation of DNA Conformation by Heart Focused Intention. Boulder Creek, CA: Heartmath Research Center, Institute of HeartMath; 2003.

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