Think with the heart – what does it really mean? Does it mean paying attention to feelings when making decisions? Unlike the brain, the heart does not have grey cells. So how is it possible to ‘think’ with the heart?

When people are faced with a decision, they often go with what their heart tells them. To me, those ‘feelings of the heart’ are the subconscious efforts of the brain, which rapidly assesses past experiences to arrive at a decision.

Now what if the heart that tells you to do something belongs to someone else? Do people who undergo heart transplant surgery, which is becoming increasingly common, undergo a change in personality as well? If we believe that all emotions lie in the brain, then the obvious answer is no.

A few years ago, a report in The Star, a Canadian newspaper, referred to a “debate” about former US vice president Dick Cheney’s heart surgery. Some believed Cheney’s new heart had the potential to change him — possibly making him into a “kinder guy”.

“The process is based on ‘cellular memory’, where organs, including the heart, retain information from their previous owners,” the report said.

There is, however, a more reasonable explanation for any change in personality: A major surgery such as this makes one introspect on the meaning of life, on what really matters in life.

The same newspaper report referred to a study conducted in 2002 by Gary Schwartz, a psychology professor at the University of Arizona, alongside Paul Pearsall of the University of Hawaii and Linda Russek of the University of Arizona. The study, published in the Journal of Near-Death Studies, looked at 10 heart transplant cases. Pearsall interviewed transplant recipients, their families and the donors’ families, with Schwartz and Russek looking at the cases, finding parallels between the donor and recipient. The parallels ranged from the same taste in food and music to sexual and job preferences. In some cases, “perceptions of names and sensory experiences related to the donors” were evident, Schwartz and his colleagues wrote.

The study postulated that the brain and the heart have “feedback loops”, which store information and energy and produce memory. Because of the feedback loops, the heart is able store energy and information for the same reason the brain does, Schwartz said.

He added there are “a lot of incentives” for patients to not pay attention to these cues.

It’s somewhat scary “to think you might be picking up the history of the donor, particularly if you don’t know that history. Secondly, you don’t want to be labelled as crazy”.

Organ donors in the US and Canada are anonymous, making it difficult to pursue the matter in depth.

I would agree with Dr Heather Ross, medical director of the Heart Transplant Programme at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre in Toronto, who stated that there is no real scientific evidence that such a thing happens.

Of course, a patient’s personality could see some change, given the emotional experience of undergoing a heart transplant surgery, difficulty in recovery and use of immunosuppressive and other medications.

It is worth reading an article in Med Hypothesis by Mitchell Liester, on the change in personality following heart transplantation and the role of cellular memory. The acquisition of donor personality characteristics by recipients is hypothesised to occur via the transfer of cellular memory. Liester wrote about four types of memory: epigenetic memory, DNA memory, RNA memory and protein memory.

Another article by Bunzel e tal, which looked at 47 people who had a heart transplant, said 79 per cent of the patients reported no change in their personality at all. 15 per cent said there had been a change in their personality – not due to the transplant but because of surviving a life-threatening event. The rest agreed they had had a change in personality because of the new heart.

The brain has enormous capabilities; people are known to have a change in accent after an injury to the brain. The question that intrigues me is this: if we are transferring cellular memories from our cells following a heart transplant, why is this not the case following a liver or kidney transplant?

Transplant News Sharing // “Heart Transplants” – Google News from Source mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com

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