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 13 2013: RE: These extraordinary results illustrate that the heart is not only responsible for blood regulations, but is also a very powerful intelligence system.

    Intelligence? The heart does in fact have some 40,000 neurons, but what is a neuron, and how does it differ from other cells in the body? It is an electrically excitable cell that processes and transmits information through electrical and chemical signals, but there's more to it than that. What type of neurons are in the heart, since there are more than one type of neuron?

    Re: The heart can therefore be characterized as the engine for distributing and controlling energy of the human body.

    What about the 'enteric system'? The case you are trying to make from the heart can also be made in a convincing fashion for the enteric system, which has some 100 million neurons.


    But I applaude you for presenting this question and feel you will learn a great deal from asking it.
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      Apr 14 2013: Hi Theodore,

      Exploring these questions is significant in understanding the function of the heart.

      The point I was trying to make was that since the heart is responsible for generating the largest electromagentic field in our bodies that can be detected up to several feet away, Because of this, it is able to control how the body allocates energy.

      You are right though, "intelligence is found in the brain and the heart, but also in other organs like the heart.

      Thanks for the link!
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        Apr 14 2013: Could the electromagnetic field that the heart produces be responsible for our concept of "personal space"? Psychologically we acknowledge the existence of "personal space", but could the electromagnetic field the heart produces be physical evidence of why we believe in "personal space"?
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        Apr 15 2013: Hi Casey,
        that's a very interesting point and makes a lot of sense. It could be that the electromagnetic field that our bodies create regulate how close we want to be to other people. On the other hand, personal space is often related to one's culture. In the US, people are more aware of their personal space and don't like to get too close to people who they're not familiar with. I've been in other countries, however, where people don't care that much about getting close to people. But it would be an interesting thing to look into.
        This conversation is a little strange because we don't often associate other organs aside from the brain as being intelligent. But I really think that this conversation should also consider what is intelligence? If intelligence means simply communicating and reacting with the outside world, not necessarily through speech or learning mechanisms, then I think that Hadar makes a good point. Our hearts and other organs react to the world around us. Consider breast feeding for example. When women give birth, their bodies start to produce milk to feed their youth. And when the children stop wanting the milk, the woman's bodies stop producing milk. This is an example where our bodies automatically communicate with our surroundings without the conscientious involvement of our brains.
        With further research, we'll come to learn about many of the other "intelligent" roles that other organs in the body play!
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        Apr 15 2013: One thing that may be worth mentioning is that while the heart produces the EM field with the most Amplitude, there are certainly other factors of a wave that come into play which may have a bigger role as far as "intelligence".

        That aside, I think more than "Personal Space" as Casey mentioned, the field in question probably has more to do witha persons 'energy' or 'aura' which is cited in many homeopathic/(sor lack of a better term:)pseudoscience. In his book, The Essential Guide to Energy Healing, Dr. Michael Andron speaks about energies generated from the body which can be felt/detected and even altered by external and/or internal sources like a healer or a cancer.

        Certainly, these energies could very well be "generated" at the heart (as opposed to the brain). This would closely relate to more "mystical" approaches which have held the heart in high regards for many centuries.

        It seems that these ideas may bridge the gap between what we consider hard-science and what is sometimes termed pseudoscience!

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