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 14 2013: Hadar,

    Thanks for sharing what you learned in Class. It is some interesting material.
    The idea of a Body-Mind, or Heart-Brain, dichotomy is deeply ingrained in most world cultures. One is typically elevated and given importance over the other, or the duality is implicitly acknowledged and a 'balance' sought.
    Coming from a Brain-over-Body perspective, any research illustrating decentalized bio-info computation will seem amazing and mind-blowing, but it should not surprise us. We are, in fact, whole Human Beings, and each and every aspect of us is intelligent, social, and rather lazy in nature.
    I don't think this research will change how we view each other on a personal or emotional level. Most of us intuitively understand things such as 'muscle-memory' and 'body language,' and hopefully view our friends personalities as something that resonates from something more than just particular regions of their neo-cortex. It will, however, make for interesting discussion over wine.
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      Apr 14 2013: Hi Seth,

      It's true, the concept of the duality of heart and brain has existed for quite some time. It it interesting that you say that wer are whole human beings and that therefore we should not be surprised by these results. However, I find that in our society we constantly praise intellect (from the brain) as one of the most important human characteristics. I think with societal progression, we tend to dismiss many aspects that make us "whole Human Beings".

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