Neurocardiology: Your Heart Has A Brain

Your heart not only has a brain, but the brain in your heart is fifty times more powerful electrically, and five thousand times more powerful magnetically, than the brain in your head. Just like the conductor of an orchestra, your heart has the capacity to create system wide order and harmony, that leads to positive changes in gene expression, biochemistry, and self-healing.

The science coming from the field of neurocardiology, much of it from the work done at the Institute of HeartMath in Boulder Creek, California, is demonstrating the healing power of the human heart. The heart has the power to enhance our intelligence and intuition, while lowering stress, anxiety, anger, and blood pressure. The heart has been shown to strengthen our immune response by raising circulating levels of the IgA¬†antibody. It also has the power¬†to create emotional clarity, enhance creativity and balance hormones. It’s the heart’s balancing influence on the brain and the autonomic nervous system that explains in part, the comprehensive healing impact of the heart.

A significant discovery is that the beat-to-beat changes measured in the heart rhythm (known as heart rate variability) reflect emotional states more accurately than changes in skin measurements or even brain wave changes. Negative or stressful emotional states produce a more random or disorganized beat pattern, while positive emotions create a very orderly, or ‘coherent’ heart rate variability pattern. It’s the coherent pattern that inhibits the stress response, or the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, while activating the parasympathetic division that’s responsible for the healing benefits mentioned earlier.

Another important finding sheds light on how we can learn to reduce emotional reactivity by cultivating a coherent heart rhythm. Our perception can be habitually routed through the amygdala, a portion of the brain that’s assessing incoming perceptions based on past emotional threats. This is the style of perception that triggers emotional reactivity. We can be reacting to imagined or remembered threats that are no longer appropriate. A coherent heart rhythm, on the other hand, allows new perceptions to bypass the amygdala in favor of the pre-frontal cortex, where perceptions can be evaluated and responded to free of unwarranted emotionality.

If the heart has such great healing potential, then why are we so stressed and sick?

We live in a culture where we’re encouraged to distance ourselves from our heart felt feelings and the guidance they offer us. We’ve become alienated from the wisdom of our hearts and bodies, and live instead in our heads, cut off from the heart’s healing wisdom. We distract and distance ourselves from our feelings because we were never taught how to experience our feelings, and the energy they contain, in a way that allows them to support us, to balance us, and to lead us more powerfully forward in life. Most of us have been programmed from childhood to unconsciously resist and judge feelings as if they were symptoms that needed to be eliminated, when in fact, they are integral aspects of our self-regulating capacity. The research emerging from the field of neurocardiology continues to validate our self-healing potential.