Aug 12 2013

Brain Cells in the Heart?

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27 Responses to “Brain Cells in the Heart?”

  1. bayviewon 12 Aug 2013 at 11:46 am

    I believe the anal sphincter is controlled by neurons, or “brain cells”. Where does that lead the whole mind-body-consciousness debate? I’ll leave it to others to write the punchlines.

  2. Cow_Cookieon 12 Aug 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Novella wrote: “A powerful meme emerges to the effect of – science now proves what we have known/believed all along.”

    This reminds me of my mother-in-law and her circle of friends. Whenever she defends her spiritualist beliefs like reincarnation, she likes to say, “Scientists say everything is made up of energy, and energy can’t be destroyed.” Of course, she and the scientific community are using two very different definitions of energy. Her definition of energy is synonymous with a spark of life, which couldn’t be further from the scientific definition. But in her mind, it’s scientific proof of whatever metaphysical belief she wants to justify.

  3. Bronze Dogon 12 Aug 2013 at 3:15 pm

    This reminds me of my mother-in-law and her circle of friends. Whenever she defends her spiritualist beliefs like reincarnation, she likes to say, “Scientists say everything is made up of energy, and energy can’t be destroyed.” Of course, she and the scientific community are using two very different definitions of energy. Her definition of energy is synonymous with a spark of life, which couldn’t be further from the scientific definition. But in her mind, it’s scientific proof of whatever metaphysical belief she wants to justify.

    One point I like to bring up about our understanding of energy is that physicists and engineers are often “energy accountants.” We know enough about energy that we can make accurate predictions of where it’ll go and what forms it’ll convert to. If souls made of energy disappeared into the ether to seek a new body, we’d be able to notice the loss. As it stands, that energy tends to go into the mundane processes of decomposition.

    And much like the point made about neurons and organization, it’s not the energy that defines our minds, it’s how it’s moved about in those organized neurons. You don’t just run an electrical current through a box to get a laptop, you need intricate circuitry to make it do the fancy stuff laptops do.

  4. evhantheinfidelon 12 Aug 2013 at 5:28 pm

    It surprises me how many people still literally think that humans use their heart in emotional or cognitive processes. I always used to think that it was supposed to be metaphorical, and I still think that it usually is. However, I view this almost like the insane number of people who still don’t answer that the Earth goes around the sun.

  5. ccbowerson 12 Aug 2013 at 6:08 pm

    When a person has a heart transplant, I guess they are changing who they are. Good to know. I guess after their transplant they also love a completely different group of people.

    “However, I view this almost like the insane number of people who still don’t answer that the Earth goes around the sun.”

    I always wonder about this group, which is usually in the 20% range. It seems as though there are about 20% of people who will answer anything crazy in a poll, like: those who think that aliens live and walk among us, or big foot is a real creature, or that Obama is the antiChrist. I wonder what percentage of these people are genuine when answering such questions. This percentage is approximately the same as the percentage of people who are smokers in the U.S, which seems like too high for these fringe beliefs.

  6. tmac57on 12 Aug 2013 at 8:22 pm

    I don’t know Steve. I mean,you are the educated neurologist and all,but I am almost certain that there are now millions of our citizens who are deriving most of their ideas from their guts,and in the process, bypassing both their brains and their hearts.
    Maybe they constitute a new,as yet unstudied class of humans with a unique biology.

  7. Davdoodleson 13 Aug 2013 at 12:04 am

    Like how a box with a flashing light is an actual mine-detector.
    .

  8. Aardwarkon 13 Aug 2013 at 3:13 am

    I find it, at the same time, extremely interesting and somewhat depressing to think how we use our neural networks to understand our neural networks – or, from another perspective, how neural networks try to make sense of themselves.

    Sometimes I feel that there must be some rather profound reason (or set of reasons) why neural networks are so poor in the above area of tasks.

  9. The Other John Mcon 13 Aug 2013 at 8:07 am

    People have an in-born sense of “essentialism” in regards to most things, it’s part of our nature that (good) schooling has to beat out of us. The thinking is like this:

    Neurons make brains, brains make minds, therefore neurons have some “essence” that sort-of oozes mentality and cognition. Put some in the heart, and blammo! A thinking heart!! This works as a mental shortcut when one has absolutely no other idea about how to think about a topic.

    Great review paper on essentialism in developmental psychology here, quite fascinating: http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~lds/readinggroup/Gelman2004tics.pdf

    I remember as a young kid trying to build a robot. I plugged some camera-type eye-ball-looking contraptions into a box, drew on a mouth, added some arms and legs, and wondered why the darn thing wasn’t acting like a humanoid robot walking and talking and thinking and such. In my mind, just arranging such contraptions were the “essence” of a living creature (instead of just the incidental features). We all have this thinking to some extent, seems to be “hard-wired”.

  10. Florison 15 Aug 2013 at 7:44 pm

    So if we’re all rational beings, then can someone explain what a ‘feeling’ is?

    Humans have come up with the term ‘gut feeling’ and they also came up with the feeling of love. And they connected it to the heart. And I guess love is the strongest feeling/ emotion of all.
    Why would we have these terms in our language if they weren’t based on experience? Or is all experience only in our brain?

    In my personal experience feelings can give very good predictions about things that you can only rationalize in a much later stage.

    And I would accept neuron’s in those area’s as an explanation. It’s not a complete brain.. but then again.. a feeling isn’t a complete and logical thought.

  11. mdgwon 16 Aug 2013 at 9:05 pm

    So I guess if someone gets brain damage, he/she can just have his celiac ganglia transplanted, huh? :)

    I am a resident preparing for boards and have been using boardvitals.com questions and your post is really complementary to their materials, thanks!

  12. Bruce Woodwardon 19 Aug 2013 at 8:07 am

    Floris:

    “So if we’re all rational beings, then can someone explain what a ‘feeling’ is?”

    My layman’s understanding is that a “feeling” is what we experience when chemical and electrical changes occur in the body and these changes are signalled to the brain in various ways. Our brain tells us we feel pain in our fingers when we touch something hot. Our concept of a whole self is actually just our brain’s perception of what these signals tell it.

    “In my personal experience feelings can give very good predictions about things that you can only rationalize in a much later stage.”

    Not sure what your point is here. An anecdote where you can always rationalise something post hoc; are you using this to justify the concept of brain cells in other parts of the body? Did you read the whole post because this is discussed?

  13. Florison 20 Aug 2013 at 7:03 am

    Hi Bruce, thanks for your reply.
    The feeling you were describing is the physical and ‘absolute’ version. But not the kind of feeling I was referring to.
    The feelings I mean are a slippery area in the field of science. But there are some scientists that have been able to prove that these feelings actually do exist and are more than an anecdote that can be rationalized post hoc.
    For this I have to refer to the work of Dean Radin; Entangled Minds
    “What would human experience be like in such an interconnected universe? Would we occasionally have numinous feelings of connectedness with loved ones at a distance? Would such experiences evoke a feeling of awe that there’s more to reality than common sense implies? Could “entangled minds” result in the experience of your hearing the telephone ring and somehow knowing – instantly – who’s calling? If we did have such experiences, could they be due to real information that somehow bypassed the usual sensory channels, or are such reports mere delusions?”
    http://www.deanradin.com/NewWeb/EMindex.html

    I can’t present the proof here since I’m still reading it. Sorry about that.
    And I’m also very curious about his new book that shows Guru’s are actually correct in some cases. (supernormal)

    I don’t mean to say that there are brain cells in other parts of the body. I think it’s been explained very well that those are neurons. And they have a function. I was just wondering if their function could be more than reactive. Because of the expressions that do exist in our language.

  14. Bruce Woodwardon 20 Aug 2013 at 8:00 am

    Floris,

    This might need a Neurologist to clarify, but even those esoteric feelings like love and gut feelings are just chemical reactions to our environment. This is just our brain telling us we are having those experiences in the relevant parts of our bodies.

    I also understand that there is no good evidence to any of those suggestions of entangled minds or any form of telepathy, and for example, those times we hit on knowing who is phoning us are nothing more than pure chance and basic deduction.

    I would also be interested in when Gurus are correct. Statistical noise alone would suggest that given a large enough sample people will appear to have abilities beyond chance. Have any of them come forward to be tested scientifically?

    And it does appear you are saying that they are brain cells in their function if you are implying they can think for themselves and react intelligently to their environment.

  15. Florison 20 Aug 2013 at 2:29 pm

    Hi Bruce,

    I do know the concept of us being our brain and chemical processes influencing our perception. And it’s a fine explanation. And there’s of course a lot of truth in it. It just doesn’t cover everything.

    Dean Radin, a true scientist, goes beyond the statistics of coincidence to prove this. But like I said before, maybe we should be having this discussion after I’ve finished the book. And if you’d like to see Guru’s proven to be correct, you might like to read his work too.

    There are also the question of cause and reaction. Theories, built on scientific experiments, about our brain creating reality instead of perceiving it. (The holographic universe).

    I have to admit that I really don’t know how everything works. And I’m trying to fit different pieces together. My feeling just tells me that it’s wrong to think that we’re nothing but chemical processes and electric pulses. And there are plenty of (un)scientific phenomena that could prove my feeling to be correct some day.
    And maybe my feeling is wrong and is life as simple as chemical processes. I’m not convinced yet.
    But I’ll keep an open mind :-)

  16. Bruce Woodwardon 21 Aug 2013 at 4:42 am

    Floris,

    Good luck in your journey.

  17. Bill Openthalton 21 Aug 2013 at 8:37 am

    @Floris

    I don’t want to rain on your parade, but Dean Radin is everything but a true scientist.

    Feelings is how the conscious part of the mind is informed on the state of the subconscious parts. The vast majority of the processing our brain does happens in subconscious parts, and the outcome of this mental activity is perceived as feelings (if your digestion is playing up, you have stomach cramps; when you’re mucking up your social status, you are anxious).

    Human consciousness is probably a by-product of our ability to build complex societies (our world today is, arguably, one society/civilization). Genetic closeness can be used to create cooperating individuals (cf. ants), but humans achieve the required levels of cooperation through the exchange of detailed information on their internal state. Obviously, this requires each individual to have access to its internal state, and it seems to me that a module with sufficient access to, and some influence over, the internal state of a brain/information processing device is an accurate description of human consciousness.

    What matters is information. Chemical processes might be simple (but make no mistake, if one looks carefully and closely enough, they aren’t all that simple), but if they implement an information processing device, the apparent simplicity of the components does not determine the complexity and ability of the device.

  18. Florison 21 Aug 2013 at 3:42 pm

    Hi Bill,
    I do agree with you on your description of feelings. So thanks for that.

    To call consciousness a by product is reversing things in my opinion. But I don’t want to start a new discussion.

    What I am curious about is why you disqualify Dean Radin as a scientist. If you look at his bio that looks pretty impressive to me. But you might have other information.

  19. Bill Openthalton 21 Aug 2013 at 6:34 pm

    @ Floris

    The problem with Radin is that he starts from the conclusion (psi exists) and then proceeds to cherry-pick explanations that support his conclusion. I’ve read both his tomes (The Conscious Universe and Entangled Minds), and they are decidedly underwhelming.

    A recurring fallacy he indulges in is to conclude that psi exists when the odds against getting a particular result are very high. His description of Sheldrake’s “staring effect” is telling; like elsewhere, he computes some incredible odds against getting the results by chance, and concludes that this proves psi is real. First, the occurrence of improbable events proves exactly nothing — even very unlikely events happen. Second, even if the effect exists, it can have other explanations, but Radin never even considers an alternative to psi. Worse, he ignores studies that do not support the staring effect, including the one done in his own lab.

    Radin ignores the seedy side of psi (all the frauds, hoaxes and deceptions the field is littered with), and even pulls an Armstrong (“I have never been caught cheating, hence I’m not a cheat”) when discussing Daniel Dunglas Home. One would expect a tad more skepticism from a “real scientist”.

    I could go on and on (like his abuse of meta-analysis and quantum mechanics), but what strikes me most is his unwavering commitment to psi as the only explanation for the phenomena he describes.

    Seeing consciousness not as a goal, but rather a means to an end (enabling large-scale cooperation between unrelated individuals) is rather liberating. Bounce the idea around for a while.

  20. Florison 22 Aug 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Hi Bill,
    thanks for your excellent reply.
    I will read his works none the less. But I’ll keep your remarks in mind while reading.
    :-)
    Floris

  21. OlegShon 26 Aug 2013 at 4:58 pm

    I think the big difference between the mind and a network of neurons is in learning capability.

    If the neuron network is hardwired and therefore cannot learn and cannot make/break new connections between synapses then it’s hardly a mind.

  22. Nic Mon 13 Oct 2013 at 1:14 pm

    The new areas of Neurocardiology show much to ponder beyond what is mentioned in your article.
    There does appear to be memory in the heart. No, the heart does not contain brain cells. But, the heart does present with more neural tissue than myo(muscle)tissue.

    I did find only one little tidbit to consider:

    DESCRIPTION

    Neurocardiology–Anatomical and Functional Principles, by J. Andrew Armour, M.D., Ph.D.

    Groundbreaking research in the field of neurocardiology has established that the heart is a sensory organ and a sophisticated information encoding and processing center, with an extensive intrinsic nervous system sufficiently sophisticated to qualify as a “heart brain.” This insightful 19-page monograph is authored by pioneer neurocardiology researcher Dr. J. Andrew Armour of the University of Montreal, who first introduced the concept of a functional heart brain in 1991. Here Dr. Armour describes the anatomical organization and function of the cardiac nervous system, which is comprised of a complex hierarchy of nested feedback control loops organized in three regulatory levels. He details the interactions that occur among multiple populations of neurons to maintain cardiovascular stability and maximize cardiac efficiency, and also considers the role of the cardiac nervous system in various forms of heart disease. Armour discusses intriguing data documenting the complex neuronal processing and memory capabilities of the intrinsic cardiac nervous system, indicating that the heart brain can process information and make decisions about its control independent of the central nervous system. By providing an understanding of the elaborate anatomy and physiology of the cardiac nervous system, this monograph contributes to the newly emerging view of the heart as a complex, self-organized system that maintains a continuous two-way dialogue with the brain and the rest of the body.

    Important note: This is a technical monograph written primarily for medical professionals, students, and researchers with a background in neuroanatomy and neurophysiology.

    source: http://www.heartmathstore.com/item/enro/heartmath-neurocardiology-(e-book)

    Thank you,

    Cheers everybody

  23. Nic Mon 13 Oct 2013 at 2:45 pm

    Oh yes, I did find this little article by Dr. Armour *
    http://www.ccjm.org/content/74/Suppl_1/S48.full.pdf

    J. ANDREW ARMOUR, MD, PhD*
    Center of Research
    Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur
    Université de Montréal
    Montréal, Québec, Canada

  24. Nic Mon 13 Oct 2013 at 2:48 pm

    You’ll probably need this too:
    http://www.amazon.com/Basic-Clinical-Neurocardiology-Andrew-Armour/dp/0195141296

    Cheers

  25. Nic Mon 13 Oct 2013 at 3:02 pm

    And this: http://www.amazon.com/Neurocardiology-J-Andrew-Armour/dp/0195073045/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1381689402&sr=1-2

    and a little news for you, hold on to your collective neuronal glutes:

    According to Dr. (and professor) Andrew Armour, yes the heart contains about 20,000 brain cells. http://bradyonthebrain.wordpress.com/tag/andrew-armour/

    Cheers

  26. TheButleron 01 Jan 2014 at 10:40 pm

    2 comments in one!
    1. Bill Openthalt,

    Hi, In your comment to Floris you said,
    “humans achieve the required levels of cooperation through the exchange of detailed information on their internal state. Obviously, this requires each individual to have access to its internal state, and it seems to me that a module with sufficient access to, and some influence over, the internal state of a brain/information processing device is an accurate description of human consciousness.”

    I am rather confused as to why detailed information on an internal state is a reason to cooperate. Is it not their mutual benefit that drives individuals together? I submit that it is the logic behind division of labor that enables cooperation. If information exchange was the sole reason of conglomeration the sole social efforts put forward by the mass public would be of a nature bound to conversation through various medium. It is my cognition that this is not a solid foundation to build a necessity of access/ influence over an internal state upon.

    2. In the article’s conclusion.
    “The heart does not contain brain cells. It contains neurons that comprise its own intrinsic system for regulating cardiac function. Further, neurons alone do not equal mind or consciousness. It takes the specialized organization of neurons in the brain to produce cognitive processes that we experience as the mind.”

    It is understood that serotonin causes happiness and thus is happiness but the way that this nifty monoamine transmitter actually causes the sensation is yet unknown. Likewise, it is not yet understood what exactly the “specialized organization of neurons” is that brings consciousness into being– and yet it is there. As far as science strives faith is still necessary to back it– oftentimes more then needed to back the opposition. Studies have shown that neurons in the heart form clusters that fire synapses more then a hundred times more frequent then some sections of the brain. How are we sure that the components of the neurons actions that are feasible in the heart or gut are not the actions that create something with which the mind can consult in the decision making process?
    There are so many hints that one must ignore to take the side of inexistence of consciousness in the gut and heart that it almost seems that the correct conclusion is with the opposition when the logicality points favorably in both directions.

  27. scottbrasson 04 Dec 2014 at 9:14 pm

    I think for many people, and especially scientists and doctors, it is much more manageable to understand and work with systems when finite bright boundaries are used to constrain them. As a career chemical/environmental engineer, I can say with some confidence that in almost all natural systems, far more is going on than we can ever really account for in our equations and models. That is why everything we do is just an approximation. The human condition, the chemical equilibrium of the mind and body has far more about it to be discovered than we already know. For Pete’s sake, we don’t even know why animals sleep or what that is all about yet.

    While it is fairly safe to say an organ may not have an extensive consciousness of its own or even contribute greatly to the processes of the brain, there is certainly a lot more to be learned about the sensory nature of organs. The symmetry of biological organisms has always fascinated me, and while some feel that may have just been a result of evolution or whatever, I feel there are deeper reasons we have symmetry and two of several different organs. If nothing else, organisms are “seers” of reality. The most simple organisms may only be able to sense light from dark or warm from cold. However, the more complex organisms have two eyes, two nostrils, two ears, two hands and whether or not that came from evolved patterns of cell division or not, this duality gives an organism perspective. Many creatures also have two lungs, two kidneys, two testes, and other important features that come in pairs. I believe there is more to that than just having a backup organ in case one fails. A lot of research I have done shows me that we will learn that the neurons and chemical equilibrium changes of our organs are sensing a lot of things we didn’t realize, whether those are vibrations, atmospheric pressure, chemical constituent changes in the air we breath, etc.

    I am now disabled as a result of a lifelong battle with osteoarthritis. I’ve had fairly severe arthritis from the time I was a child, but yet no doctors have really been able to explain this to me. The severe chronic pain in my joints and spine effects my brain in many significant ways. At the Cleveland Clinic, and at several other reputable medical institutions I have been told by doctors that the mind and body are not separate things. We are whole. The mind and body are one thing and parts of our bodies sense things and provide feedback to the brain in ways we can’t even begin yet to understand.

    Even as a scientist, I find one group of people much more troubling than those who allow themselves to believe things that are somewhat outlandish. That group is comprised of those who are so close minded as to believe we already know so much for sure. I truly believe there is a driving force for life, that life loves life and that all life on earth although separated into different species, organisms and times is all connected in a larger way. If nothing else, we may find that the DNA of practically any creature provides an extensive history of life on earth all on its own, and that by looking at the DNA of many creatures a detailed history of what happened on this planet from the start of life could be discerned. Chemical equilibrium is a way other than nerves to sense stimuli and changes, store that information, and create the driving forces necessary for information transfer. We understand little overall about what information the combination of chemical shifts and actions of neurons may be transmitting throughout our body. As with all sciences where the minor effects are not well understood and relevant to the answers being sought, these effects have been assumed negligible and disregarded for the purposes of medical theories, analysis and description. And they rightly should be as they didn’t pertain to the issue at hand. But to say we know that our body’s various parts cannot sense and contribute to our overall feelings and participate in the processes of the mind seems just plain foolish.

    What causes people to stop and stare and the wonders of nature and matter and find them beautiful? Is it only a human thing, only a learned thing? When I see the birds wake up and start their day, I often see them shake, and stretch and twitch, with a sparkle in their eyes. Don’t you think they are feeling some of the same feelings we all feel at many times, the feelings that haven’t been explained by medicine. They haven’t been explained because there really has been no need or purpose in doing so, and because those mysterious vague processes are probably the most complex and hard to understand features of life itself. Just like with the chemical equilibrium of nature, the trace things that go on, like hormones in the body, may have significant effects at the tiniest of overall concentrations.

    A bee can tell when it flies up to a group of flowers which ones have been recently visited by other bees due to the levels of static charge on the flowers. That is pretty incredible. Mankind will be learning much more in the coming decades on sensations and the waveforms associated with life. I am concerned about what all of the manmade waveforms may be doing to the environment, creatures and even plants. People may say it is ridiculous to think that now, but we have said that about many, many things in the past only to find out different. If changes in “space weather” and solar activity can be proven to have health effects for humans (look it up), than to think our organs have sensory roles much more expansive than previously thought is not such a stretch.

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