The Heart Has Its Own “Brain” and Consciousness_Featured_, Consciousness Tuesday, August 21st, 2012
(MindfulMuscleBlog) Many believe that conscious awareness originates in the brain alone. Recent scientific research suggests that consciousness actually emerges from the brain and body acting together. A growing body of evidence suggests that the heart plays a particularly significant role in this process.
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.”
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.
In addition to the extensive neural communication network linking the heart with the brain and body, the heart also 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. 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.
The heart generates a continuous series of electromagnetic pulses in which the time interval between each beat varies in a dynamic and complex manner. The heart’s ever-present rhythmic field has a powerful influence on processes throughout the body. 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.
We propose that the heart’s field acts as a carrier wave for information that provides a global synchronizing signal for the entire body. Specifically, we suggest that as pulsing waves of energy radiate out from the heart, they interact with organs and other structures. The waves encode or record the features and dynamic activity of these structures in patterns of energy waveforms that are distributed throughout the body. In this way, the encoded information acts to in-form (literally, give shape to) the activity of all bodily functions—to coordinate and synchronize processes in the body as a whole. This perspective requires an energetic concept of information, in which patterns of organization are enfolded into waves of energy of system activity distributed throughout the system as a whole.
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Image: Institute of Heartmath Research Center