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 17 2013: I can safely assume that the bulk of information processing happens in the Central Nervous System (CNS), especially when it comes to bodily action that relate to consciousness.

    This does not mean that our whole body affects and co-influences our CNS. Our hormones and sensors give a lot of information and influence what we do and think.

    I do agree that we do not fully understand all the interactions between all our organs (I think the possible permutations are staggering)

    we know that food influences our moral decisions (judges give smaller punishments after a snack).

    On a cell level, we can assume there is a lot of regulation and communication going on (with surrounding cells).
    Still, it's nerve cells who are speciallized in information processing and passing it on to the other nerve cels

    So is there a possibility our heart "thinks"? I don't think so. The article refers to a nerve nucleus: It's function certainy is information processing (as our gut-brain does as well). But the number of cells there probably indicates that it's contribution [to intelligence] cannot be as big as that of the CNS

    As for the cardio-electromagnetic field theory... I am very sceptical about that (I see it pop up more often in pseudo-science and new-age than in actual scientific research)
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      Apr 17 2013: I agree with you Christophe. But I think it's a pity. It looks like just because some people use pseudo-scientific attempts to correlate heart with intelligence, scientists shy away from examining it critically.
      Intelligence is under appreciated in my opinion. You are right that information processing is primarily done by CNS and there is no denying that for humans CNS is pretty developed. But what exactly is intelligence?
      I think we always define intelligence with the idea of a goal or purpose in mind. A person can be very intelligent while grasping a physical reality and very dumb while managing relationships or emotions. I broached the subject of emotional intelligence in this context.
      Purely biologically, where propagation of genes is the ultimate purpose, an organism that has traded a developed and complex CNS for a survival related adaptive trait that helps it to continue for millions of years, can be viewed as biologically intelligent.
      I may be wrong, but it appears to me that our idea of intelligence is too outwardly directed, so much that we often say our brain decides this or that, and 'we' are relegated to a living corpse. Can it it be so there is another kind of intelligence within our body, among our organs, a mind blowing concert between different parts of our body to achieve seemingly mundane tasks like drinking a glass of water?
      I think that is a very interesting and useful question to ask. I just hope scientists of future will take this question seriously.
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      Apr 17 2013: I particularly appreciated hearing from a neuroscientist here. Thank you for contributing!

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