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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 Miss Cohen!
    It used to be. But I think, not anymore. Apart from the physilogical basis of intelligence (neurons etc.) located in parts of our body other than the brain, IQ has a competing candidate now which is known as EQ (emotional quotient). Daniel Goleman's work on emotional intelligence is interesting despite criticism from mainstream scientists.
    We already have a scientific basis of 'gut' feeling, I hope.
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      Apr 12 2013: Hi Pabitra!

      You are right, we do have evidence of neurons located in different parts of the body. I am curious to know more about this Emotional Quotient, would you be able to expand on that concept? What is this EQ based on?

      I agree the mainstream scientists often like to dismiss this idea, which comes to me as a surprise. Why do you think there is so much criticism from mainstream scientists on this topic?
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        Apr 12 2013: Hadar and Pabitra,

        Emotional quotient, cool! I can't wait to hear more about this!

        Adding to Hadar: "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?"

        and Pabitra: "We already have a scientific basis of 'gut' feeling, I hope."

        I think there is something to the intelligence of other parts of the body having the capability to "influence emotional states". The example I think of is when I get sick, say catch the flu or something like that. When I get sick, emotional speaking, I don't "feel" like myself. I tend to get grumpy, agitated, or I "feel" uneasy.

        And also, when I get sick, my brain doesn't say "Hey, you got the flu! You might want want to do something about that!" No! However, my body sure seems to know something isn't as it should be and I think that effects my emotional state.
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          Apr 12 2013: Hi Casey!

          That is very interesting that you mention getting sick as a way to realize our other body parts intelligences. You are right, our brain does not let us know that we should take care of ourselves. But our bodies do inform us.

          Its almost as if getting sick is a wake up call in which the body is yelling "pay attention to me too!". I find that when I get sick, I tend to appreciative my health more. Our bodies are amazing creations that seem to be able to take care of themselves for the most part. However, we do need to be more aware of what actually goes on with our bodies.
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        Apr 13 2013: Dear Hadar and Casey,
        There is a lot of information available online about emotional intelligence, of which I am sharing a few.
        Some scholarly articles by Salovey and Mayer, who first proposed this idea in a coherent and scientific angle are also given.
        My personal take on this is as follows:
        IQ is arguably not an effective measure of intelligence (I was told to have possessed an IQ higher than Bill Gates - you can easily assess the level of achievements and successes of Bill and I :) ). Emotional intelligence integrates passion, goal orientation, communication smartness and ability to channelize emotional energies gainfully with capabilities of critical/abstract thinking. It is a more holistic idea compared to IQ based intelligence. It is relevant to your question because power to emote is a function of the body where organs other than brain figure too.
        I would like to point out to you that the idea of intelligence that you are discussing is apparently limited to human faculty. Intelligence takes on special significance when you decide the direction and goal of life. From a purely biological point of view, where propagation of genes is the ultimate goal, size and power of brain functions start to lose special position. I mean, there are wonderful life forms on earth successfully surviving despite very low brain mass - are they any less intelligent? From that perspective, plants, that reigned the world much before higher order primates and possibly going to survive when they become extinct, are no less intelligent that humans. However this is a bit radical idea I suppose. :)
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          Apr 14 2013: Hi Pabitra!

          Thank you for all these links, greatly appreciated!

          I agree with you that defining intelligence is related to our ultimate goal. Your example was very interesting, though is pretty radical! I think that humans have an advantage compared to other life forms because they have this special intelligence, whether it is related to the brain, heart of other organs. We as humans, I believe have an additional task to procreating. Obviously there is much debate as to what this purpose actually is, but I think many agree that it exists.

          I like how you define emotional intelligence to include passion and ability to channelize emotional energies with abstract thinking. I think it is tough to be able to determine how these characteristics can actually be measured, but important to do nonetheless.
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        Apr 14 2013: Hi Hadar,
        The EQ can be objectively measured. There are several models available, of which I find EQ-i very comprehensive. You can test your emotional intelligence here.
        To know how EQ measurement is standardized you may find this useful.
        My wife (a professional theater actor) and I did a study on how theater acting can increase emotional intelligence of senior school students where we used EQ-i model questionnaire to test if late teen boys/girls can develop emotional intelligence by using theater acting as an activity.
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          Apr 14 2013: Hi Pabitra,

          I just took the quiz and got above-average! I would have liked there to be more of a spectrum though.

          That is fascinating about your study, I would love to hear the results!

          Thanks for these links!
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        Apr 14 2013: Dear Hadar,
        For more detailed test you have to buy the tests, I guess.
        The study I mentioned has joint copyright with Government of India, who funded it. But I can share some salient results with you :)
        1. EQ of late teen students showed no co-realation with economic class they came from but a direct proportionality with the size of the family. EQ and language skills were found interlinked. Size of group under study was 180 randomly selected students of both genders.
        2. Of the same age brackets girls showed higher EQ than boys.
        3. Exposure to theater games like trust games, imaginary red ball game, improvisation game etc showed improvement of EQ in all subjects.
        4. Emotional management exercises seem to improve grades but conclusion was not convincing.

        I hope you know that unlike IQ which tends to fall with age, EQ improves.
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          Apr 14 2013: Wow that is great, thanks so much for this!

          Result numer 1 is fascinating. So interesting that size of family impacts EQ.

          I am very intrigued to explore more about this topic.

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