The Intelligent Heart
Many of the changes in bodily function that occur during the coherence state revolve around changes in the heart’s pattern of activity. While the heart is certainly a remarkable pump, interestingly, it is only relatively recently in the course of human history around the past three centuries or so that the heart’s function has been defined by Western scientific thought as only that of pumping blood. Historically, in almost every culture of the world, the heart was ascribed a far more multifaceted role in the human system, being regarded as a source of wisdom, spiritual insight, thought, and emotion. Intriguingly, scientific research over the past several decades has begun to provide evidence that many of these long-surviving associations may well be more than simply metaphorical. These developments have led science to once again to revise and expand its understanding of the heart and the role of this amazing organ.
In the new field of neurocardiology, for example, scientists have discovered that the heart possesses its own intrinsic nervous system a network of nerves so functionally sophisticated as to earn the description of a heart brain. Containing over 40,000 neurons, this little brain gives the heart the ability to independently sense, process information, make decisions, and even to demonstrate a type of learning and memory. In essence, it appears that the heart is truly an intelligent system. Research has also revealed that the heart is a hormonal gland, manufacturing and secreting numerous hormones and neurotransmitters that profoundly affect brain and body function. Among the hormones the heart produces is oxytocin well known as the love or bonding hormone. Science has only begun to understand the effects of the electromagnetic fields produced by the heart, but there is evidence that the information contained in the heart’s powerful field may play a vital synchronizing role in the human body and that it may affect others around us as well.
Research has also shown that the heart is a key component of the emotional system. Scientists now understand that the heart not only responds to emotion, but that the signals generated by its rhythmic activity actually play a major part in determining the quality of our emotional experience from moment to moment. As described next, these heart signals also profoundly impact perception and cognitive function by virtue of the heart’s extensive communication network with the brain. Finally, rigorous electrophysiological studies conducted at the Institute of Heart Math have even indicated that the heart appears to play a key role in intuition. Although there is much yet to be understood, it appears that the age old associations of the heart with thought, feeling, and insight may indeed have a basis in science.
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