Throughout most of Human history people didn’t locate their thoughts and emotions within the brain. For example, the ancient Egyptians didn’t even see fit to preserve the brains of their kingsand queen’s in the same way that they did with other organs when mummifying them. But whileit wasn’t until recently that the brain was identified as the seat of our thoughts, emotions or soul,then where did the ancients believe was the centre of these things? The answer is the heart.Today we laugh at the notion that our hearts could be intelligent, we see them as basic pumps. A pump doesn’t have thoughts, emotions and memories.
But perhaps we don’t know as much aswe think we do
. For example, our modern association of thought and emotion with the brainmay have gone a bit too far.One association with the heart that we have still kept, to some extent, is that its something to dowith our emotions, particularly with love – the heart remains a popular visual symbol of love.Also it’s often used as a symbol for our intuition and morals. We often use phrases like “listen toyour heart.” Or “follow what your heart tells you is right.” Admittedly, most people when usingthese phrases are not always literally asking you to stop and try and sense how your heart feels,they are using the word ‘heart’ as a metaphor for your intuition. But could that metaphor for locating feelings and emotions in the heart actually have some reality to it?Well, at the most basic level, we know that emotional stress can harm the heath of our hears, putting them under strain, and perhaps leading – in extreme cases – to people suffering heartattacks, as the end product of years of chronic stress. Also, the heart regulates the blood flow,and blood contains hormones and neuro-peptides which transmit emotional information. Butcould there be a stronger connection than this?Amazingly, Dr Andrew Armour, a neurologist from Montreal , Canada , discovered a small butcomplex network of neurons in the heart, which he has dubbed
‘the little brain in the heart’
.These neurons seem to be capable of
both short and long term memory
. Why should the hearteven have neurons and the ability to remember?Well, for one thing, there is a lot of muscle co-ordination that goes on in the heart in order to allow it to function properly. The fact that heartscan even be transplanted shows that there is a long-term memory stored in the heart for itsrhythms. When a heart is removed, it is cooled and can stay alive for up to four hours. Once theheart is connected into its new recipient, as blood enters it, it begins to beat again. It is almostcertainly the ‘little brain in the heart’ that is enabling the heart to remember how to beat.
Furthermore, there is a lot of communication that occurs between the heart and the brain.There are 40,000 neurons in the heart which communicate with the brain.
Hormones fromthe heart travel in our bloodstream. Every time the heart beats, it creates both pulse waves of pressure, and of electromagnetic energy which travel through the body and to the brain.
Amazingly, the heart generates a magnetic field 5000 times more powerful than that of thebrain. It can be measured six feet away from the body
. It almost certainly extends further, butthis is the limit of our current sensing equipment.We all too often forget that the brain is just the most complex end of a whole nervous systemwhich extends throughout our body. For example, the nerves in our hands are in almost constant