A Closer Look at the Research: The Heart Guides the Mind, Body, and Spirit

In Blog by Christine Lisio

Let us first begin with a deeper understanding of the heart.  Nearly 30 years ago it was discovered that the human heart has 40,000 specialized cells called sensory neurites.

These are a type of cell that is also found in our brain.

Research has also shown that the heart has other types of neurons, neurotransmitters, and it’s own nervous system like those found in the brain.  Not only does the heart have its own intrinsic brain, this mini brain in the heart communicates with the brain in our head.

Studies have shown that the heart sends a significant amount of information to the brain, much more than what the brain is sending back to the heart.  Scientists have concluded, based on their research, that heart cells learn independently from our brain and they think and feel independently of cells in the brain.

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It is believed that there is a form of intelligence in the heart that can function independently from the brain. 

What’s even more interesting is that scientists have discovered that the heart produces hormones.  One of the hormones that has been studied, atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), has been shown to reduce the production of the stress hormone cortisol and also plays a role in motivation and behavior.  “Increased atrial peptide inhibits the release of stress hormones, reduces sympathetic outflow and appears to interact with the immune system.” (Ref) 

It’s likely that the current science is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to demystifying our heart power.

The most relevant research from the HeartMath Institute are the studies that were done on Heart-Brain Coherence in relation to emotion.  These studies showed that when the subjects thought of a negative emotion such as frustration, they produced an incoherent heart-brain pattern and when the subject thought of a positive emotion, such as gratitude, a coherent heart-brain pattern was produced.

Credit: HeartMath.org

Further research is giving us a glimpse into why a more coherent heart-brain connection leads to increased intuition.  For example, studies show that the negative emotional state sends chemical messages to shut down the higher perceptual/higher thinking center (cortical inhibition) shown in red above.  Positive emotions were shown to do the opposite, opening the higher thinking capacity (cortical facilitation) shown in blue.  (Ref)

Science has also been able to show that when we are in this state of heart-brain coherence that the heart is able to send messages to the brain to release chemicals and hormones that are anti-aging, regenerating, and rejuvenating.

This coherence also produces a measurable and significant increase in the immune system function, providing evidence of our innate self-healing mechanism.