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The Heart Maintains Our Memories

February 5, 2019 Joe Mechlinski


In my book Shift the Work, I explore engagement at the workplace. I examine the relationships between our three brains – the head, heart and gut brain. Here, I'm exploring  how the heart works with the brain to allow us to see and work with others in powerful ways.  

The heart remembers. The heart sends as many, if not more, messages to the head brain than it receives. 

Researchers in the field of energy cardiology have found that nearly all heart-transplant recipients report experiencing memories and emotional responses that appear to have come from the donor’s personality. What this means is that the heart creates thinking hormones similar to the type created in the head brain.

In her book, A Change of Heart: A Memoir, Claire Sylvia shares her experience after receiving the heart and lungs of her donor—a teenaged boy who died in a motorcycle accident— describing a change in her cravings, behaviors, and emotions. She reportedly acquired her donor’s love for beer and chicken nuggets. 

Sylvia also found she became more aggressive and impulsive. After she sought out the family of her donor, these physical and psychological changes were confirmed. Sylvia’s story is only one of a number of documented case studies that supports that the heart maintains our memories. It's how we engage with our past, and collect experiences. 

The heart tastes. The human genome has twenty-five bitter taste receptors, twelve of which, according to The School of Biomedical Sciences team at the University of Queensland, are located in the heart. 

As part of this team’s ongoing research into the growth of human hearts during disease, they found that when the taste receptors are activated with a chemical—that we taste as bitter—the contractile function of the heart was almost completely inhibited. So, it's no surprise that our hearts can close up when we're bitter, just as when work dissatisfies us, or leaves us disengaged, we can say that our heart isn't in it. What that means is that our heart brains are telling us we need to find work that allows us to connect with our greater purpose, to "taste" our goals. 

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