TED Conversations

Hadar Cohen

Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

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Is the heart overlooked when it comes to intelligence?

The center of the nervous system, the brain, has been popularly defined as the fundamental core of intellectual activity. Yet, in my Bioelectricity class with Professor Nina Tandon, we learned about recent research suggesting that information processing in the body may in fact be more distributed.

For example, there is increasing evidence suggesting that the cardioelectromagenetic field can actually affect human beings in close proximity.These signals are stronger in amplitude when in direct contact, but are still detectable up to several feet away from the source. Through these interactions, the heart transfers energies between human beings. The heart can therefore be characterized as the engine for distributing and controlling energy of the human body.

These extraordinary results illustrate that the heart is not only responsible for blood regulations, but is also a very powerful intelligence system.

This made me wonder, could intelligence be distributed through the body in ways we might not expect? Could this information sent to the brain perhaps even influence emotional states? Or provide insight into some of the unexplained links between "mental" and "bodily" diseases (eg Alzheimer's and cardiac disease etc)?

See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3547419/
and http://books.google.com/books?id=pvkpdNHhI6cC for more details

Given that the heart and other organs are frequently excluded from the
intellectual discussion, I would like to ask the Ted community, how do
these new findings affect how we view intelligence? How will our
interactions with each other differ if we view more of our bodies as


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    Apr 12 2013: Hello Hadar Cohen! Nice to meet you! :D

    Well if you define intelligence as "whatever a intelligence test tests" or as "IQ", then yes the heart (if it does influence your IQ) probably is underestimated. ,
    I mean until I know how you define Intelligence, I feel that I am not really able to comment on this properly. :)
    Sorry to have contributed not very much, it's just that defining words is extremely important! (I find!)
    Considering intelligence can be split into :
    - Willpower + Motivational skills (Which IQ tests don't measure! I mean if you take 10 years on a hypothesis, an IQ test wouldn't measure this!)
    - Memory
    - Creativity
    - Intelligence (Which can be split even further. Like into Practical + Analytical intelligence)
    - Charisma (sometimes related to as "emotional intelligence")

    Which I personally would say are all different things, yet are all important aspects of what we mean when we say "intelligence".
    I mean is "wisdom" a type of intelligence? :)

    Hope I helped somehow. I don't feel like I have, just further complicated this debate!
    Please tell me if I have misunderstood!
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      Apr 12 2013: Hi Bernard,

      You make an excellent point. I purposely did not define intelligence because that is part of my whole question. Obviously the brain and heart have different functions and depending on the way we define intelligence, either can be more or less intelligent. So when I ask if the heart is underestimated in this conversation, part of what I am asking is well, how do we define intelligence? By this definition we can figure out if this intelligence is strictly limited to the brain or actually encompasses more than we think.

      If you as me how I personally define intelligence, I would say that it is closely connected to truth. Therefore, I would definitely include wisdom as a type of intelligence. Of course, this raises another question of what is truth...

      I guess I was wondering if we are able to apply a characteristic that has commonly been referenced to the brain in other ways, leading us to conclude that intelligence is actually more broad than we think.
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        Apr 12 2013: I believe one thing which is underrated when people say intelligence, is that people often ignore the "motivational and willpower" skills people have to persist in their goals. As Malcom Gladwell talks a lot about in his book "The Outliers".
        And I can imagine that your heart would help you somehow with willpower. (I'm not sure how, this is just a pure hypothesis!)
        Yes this would be very interesting debate! :)
        Also if you believe that the most "intelligent" people get into power, you have just look at people like Chris Langan to find out this always isn't true. Which (in my opinion) makes intelligence too far overrated. And think about "late bloomers" like Einstein, or that people who "could" be really intelligent yet the opportunities are crushed for them.
        Sorry I feel I am getting too side-tracked.

        Well done on starting this debate though, it is very thought provoking!

        Also the fact remains that "is intelligence a set thing?" (I believe not) And if your heart does have impact on your intelligence, it can have massive implications.

        Sorry, I'm my thoughts are kind of everywhere, very hard to structure!
        P.S I am a great fan of Malcolm Gladwell.
        Here are some of his very thought provoking articles!
        What I.Q. doesn't tell you about race. : http://www.gladwell.com/2007/2007_12_17_c_iq.html
        Are smart people overrated? : http://www.gladwell.com/2002/2002_07_22_a_talent.htm
        And there are many many more!
        I can send you this link as well :
        I think it will help you a lot!
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          Apr 14 2013: Hi Bernard,

          That's great that you are such a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell! I am not a huge admirer, but I do appreciate a lot of his thoughts. His ted talk was very inspiring http://www.ted.com/talks/malcolm_gladwell_on_spaghetti_sauce.html

          I also read his book, "Outliers". I like the idea of willpower playing a big role in defining intelligence. It is interesting that you said intelligence is far too overrated. I tend to agree with you on that aspect, but only if we are viewing intelligence as society does. I think intelligence is more than what society makes it out to be. If we are able to define it properly enough, well then I don't think it would be overrated at all!

          I do agree with you that intelligence is not necessarily set. I believe the heart does affect our intelligence and I am very intrigued to learn about the many ways that it does.

          Thank you for your comment! I appreciate the lack of structure, sometimes it helps with sorting out your thoughts :)

          I will be sure to read these links, thanks again!

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