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 16 2013: Hi Hadar, great question! I was particularly interested in the library of medicine article you posted. It's easy to follow the thinking that the heart affects the brain as with the Broken-Heart syndrome. The "sympathetic limb of the autonomic nervous system leads to cardiac myofibrillar degeneration." It is more difficult to observe the intelligence of the heart and see how the heart primarily affects the brain. The article states, "Neurologists and neuropsychologists also increasingly appreciate the importance of vascular risk factors and cardiovascular diseases on cognitive function." From an engineering perspective on the brain, I want to see by what mechanisms the heart can affect the brain. How can the heart reach out? From the article, I think that damaged heart tissue or clogged arteries obstructing blood flow can affect the brain chemically by failing to keep it oxygenated. This is one way the heart 'reaches' out. What are other ways?

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