Does the Heart Have a Mind of it’s Own?
My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own
Sometimes, even time cannot heal a wounded heart
"The heart has its reasons which reason does not understand." Blaise Pascal
"I told this heart of mine our love could never be
But then I hear your voice and something stirs inside of me
Somehow I can't resist the memory of your kiss
Guess my heart has a mind of its own." Connie Francis
"You know what, there is a place you can touch a woman that will drive her crazy ... her heart." Melanie Griffith
Emotional reasoning, which prevails in matters of the heart, is different from intellectual reasoning. Are these two types of reasoning condemned to fight each other, or can they be integrated? Should we follow our heart entirely in romantic matters, and are we able to resist it even if we want to?
Intellectual reasoning is broader than emotional reasoning: it refers to a broader scope of circumstances and has more freedom in the perspectives that it can adopt in its analysis. The principles underlying emotional and intellectual reasonings are principles of information processing that determine the meaning of events around us. Two examples of the emotional system's principles are:
1. Changes are more significant than stability;
2. A personal event is more significant than a non-personal event.
Correlated principles of the intellectual system are:
1. Changes are not more significant than stability; on the contrary, we should assume that there are stable regularities in the world;
2. A personal event is not necessarily more meaningful than a non-personal event.
What is the relationship between the systems?
Commenting on La Rochefoucauld's maxim that "The head is always fooled by the heart,"Jon Elster asks why the heart should bother to fool the head. Why can't the heart just get on with whatever it wants to do? The answer he suggests is that it is an important part of our self-image that we believe ourselves to be swayed by reason rather than by passion. Elster terms this tendency "addiction to reason" and rightly claims that it makes those who are so addicted irrational rather than rational. A rational person knows that under certain conditions it is better to follow emotional tendencies than to use more elaborate intellectual processes.
Sometimes the opposite tendency is evident as well: People present their calculated actions as if they were contrary to intellectual reasoning and in accordance with the moral commands of their hearts, because they wish to seem passionate. Politicians, who often behave in a calculated and immoral manner, typically use this tactic.
The evaluative systems underlying emotional and intellectual reasoning can be discerned by their mechanisms and contents. Whereas the emotional system typically uses a spontaneous mechanism and its content is narrow (and partial), the intellectual system is typically deliberative and has a broader perspective. The psychological model that might explain intuitive emotional knowledge is that which refers to expert knowledge. Like emotional knowledge, expert knowledge is intuitive in the sense that it is not based on a careful intellectual analysis of the given data, but rather on activating certain (acquired and innate) cognitive structures. The famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright argued that "an expert is one who does not have to think; he knows." Like expert knowledge, emotional knowledge that comes from the heart is a kind of sensitivity to certain types of higher-level stimuli.
In a similar manner, Daniel Kahneman has suggested differentiating between two systems of processing, calling them intuition and reasoning respectively. Intuition (system 1), is based upon emotional reasoning; reasoning (system 2) is based upon intellectual reasoning. The two types of logic are not entirely contradictory and have certain common principles.
Integrating the two reasoning systems is difficult to achieve, but it is valuable. This integration, which is termed by psychologists "Emotional Intelligence," is described by the famous "scholar" from Chicago, Al Capone, who said, "You can get more with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone."
In terms of the loving heart, can and should we integrate our intellectual considerations when making romantic decisions, or should we merely follow our heart?
The issue is complex as although love is perceived to be irrational, the idea of finding the "right" person implies a rational choice. The dictate "to follow your heart and not your head" is in fact opposed to the rationality required in choosing the beloved, which must be based on the objective values we observe in the beloved. The conflict between the two is articulated in myriad ways in our daily life. Thus, the following claim by a woman in love is typical of lovers' expressions: "Crazy love... That's what it is... Nothing rational about it... Just crazy love." And in the TV series Ally McBeal, Renee tells Ally: "Emotionally, you're an idiot." Lovers typically prefer their heart over their intellectual mind and consider acting in accordance with their heart as the greatest expression of freedom and honesty. Thus, married people who have a forbidden romantic relationship might say that love is more significant than outdated conventions, and letting their heart have the freedom to choose is more genuine than being loyal to such conventions. In other cases, such a forbidden relationship enables people to escape a bad marriage and in the name of love to create a safe oasis outside the home so as to make home life more tolerable.
For many people, preventing yourself from following your heart is no less of a sin than preventing your official partner from knowing about all your actions. A woman who had an online affair notes: "I fell in love with this man online. I felt like I was cheating on my fiancé, but I thought that my online lover actually loved me more than the man I had in my arms." Eva, a married woman who is involved in a loving relationship with a married man, said, "When I am with him, I feel as light as a feather, and whatever we do together feels so natural and right." Eva's use of the expression "natural and right" might seem odd, as her behavior appears to violate what other people may consider as natural and right-being faithful to your formal partner. But Eva is referring not to superficial circumstances but to the profound attitudes and values that underlie her intense love. Similarly, Bernard, who has been married for 15 years, says he considers the time his married lover spends with her husband as an exile from her genuine home where her heart really wants to be. In fact, she constantly asks him to help her survive "in the desert."
Most people cherish the presence of passionate love in their relationship and are "romantic" in the sense that they say that they would not marry a person who possessed every quality they admire, but with whom they are not in love. The situation is more complex when people are required to divorce in order to follow their hearts. Here, the loss is evident and the gain is yet to be seen. The increase in the percentage of divorces indicates that more and more people are giving now greater weight to their heart in such decisions.
Following our heart, however, may not always involve acting according to our character or moral norms. Our heart might express a more limited aspect of our character and morality. Moreover, how can we identify what the genuine expressions of our heart are? Surely, not all emotional states are genuine expressions of our deep loving attitudes-some of them are tentative expressions of superficial circumstances that we would not want to endure in the long term. As Yehuda Ben-Ze'ev put it, "When is the yearning heart's cry real? And when will we be greeted by the true, and honest, echo of love's call? When does the response resonate falsely, and when does our call fall on deaf stone cliffs?" Our inability to distinguish between the two can jeopardize those romantic decisions that rely solely on our heart.
To sum up: Our heart indeed has a mind of its own; we should listen to it, as it often expresses our profound attitudes, but we should not always follow it without regard for rational considerations, because the intellectual mind is equally important. If we can learn to integrate the two systems, we will have the best of both worlds.
The above considerations can be encapsulated in the following statement that a lover might express: "Darling, I know that following your heart is difficult for you, as you cannot dismiss intellectual considerations. But remember that we only live once, and ignoring love can permanently damage your heart. Sometimes, even time cannot heal a wounded heart."
By Dr. Mercola
In the film “Of Hearts and Minds,” science documentary filmmaker David Malone explores the human heart, juxtaposing the modern scientific view of the heart as a mere pump, versus its long history as a symbol of love and the center of innate wisdom and human character.
The film starts off in an operating room where open heart surgery is taking place, and Malone interviews Consultant Surgeon Francis Wells, who talks about the mechanistic and bioelectrical workings of the heart.
On the other side, there’s the poetic view of the heart as a source organ of love, with an intelligence all its own. In Wells’ view, the heart is a pump, and nothing more.
You can replace your heart with an artificial one, and it won’t affect your ability to love. Yet the idea that your heart is somehow an emotional organ remains.
The Heart — An Organ of Truth and Emotion
Sayings like “I love you with all my heart,” and “my heart swelled with joy,” or the reference to someone being “broken-hearted” or “cold hearted” — how much of this poetic language is based on something real?
Are these kinds of sayings references to something biologically true, stated in poetic terms?
This is the question Malone seeks to answer in this film, and the reason he thinks the answer may be important is because he believes the way we see our heart is a reflection of how we view ourselves as human beings.
The ancient Egyptians saw the heart as an organ of truth. And indeed, your heart does seem to be able to tell you the truth about how you feel and what you think is right or wrong. When you lie, for example, your heart rate tends to speed up.
As the film goes on, Malone scours the latest science, to find out whether ourfeelings and emotions really come from our brains, or whether they might actually originate in our hearts.
For starters, Leonardo Da Vinci discovered how the blood flowed through the heart, and how the swirling vortexes within the heart’s chambers worked withthe heart, opening and closing the valves with each heart beat — a far cry from the mechanistic view of the heart as a simple single-stroke pump.
Da Vinci’s drawings and experiments reveal a harmonic beauty — as much a piece of art as a machine.
The ‘Brain’ Within Your Heart
David Paterson, Ph.D. a professor at Oxford University, straddles the two areas of the brain and the heart. His work shows that your brain is not the sole source of your emotions, but indeed, your heart and brain work together in producing emotions.
Your heart actually contains neurons, similar to those in your brain, and your heart and brain are closely connected, creating a symbiotic emotional whole. As explained in the film:
“When your heart receives signals from the brain via the sympathetic nerves, it pumps faster. And when it receives signals through the parasympathetic nerves, it slows down. “
While this seems to support the view that the heart simply follows the orders of the brain, the reality is far more complex. Because your heart also contains thousands of specialized neurons, predominantly located around the right ventricle surface, forming a complex network. Why did nature put them there?
Neurons are what allow your brain to form thoughts. So what are they doing around the right ventricle of your heart? While much about the neurons in your heart is still unknown, one thing is sure — the “brain” in your heart communicates back and forth with the brain in your head. It’s a two-way street.
The Neurons in Your Heart Makes Decisions Too
In the film, Professor Paterson shows a piece of heart tissue from a rabbit — not the whole heart, just a piece of the right ventricle, where the neurons are clustered.
Kept in a tank with nutrients and a steady flow of oxygen, this suspended piece of heart tissue beats all by itself, even though it’s not attached to a living organism, and there’s no actual blood pumping through it.
By sending an electrical impulse into this tissue via an electrode, Professor Patterson demonstrates how the heart tissue immediately slows its contractions; a “decision” made by the neurons in the tissue in response to the stimulation.
This elegant little experiment shows that it’s the neurons in your heart that decide how the heart will behave, not the neurons in your brain. What Professor Patterson is finding again shifts our view of the heart back toward its more poetic and philosophical origins.
As Malone says:
“The heart is a pump that does respond when the brain asks it to, but it is not enslaved to the brain. Its relationship to the brain is more like a marriage ... with each dependent on the other. It seems science is now restoring to the heart something that rightfully belongs to it: Our emotions.”
Intense Negative Emotions Puts Your Heart Health at Risk
The interplay between your brain and heart can be seen when looking at how your emotional and mental outlook colors your health — especially your heart health. Intense anger, for example, boosts your heart attack risk five-fold, and your stroke risk three-fold.
Intense grief after the loss of a loved one also raises your risk of having a heart attack. The day immediately following your loss, your risk of a heart attack goes up by 21 times, and remains six times higher than normal for several weeks.1
Research also shows that people exposed to traumatic experiences, for example, combat veterans, New Orleans residents who went through Hurricane Katrina, and Greeks struggling through financial turmoil, have higher rates of cardiac problems than the general population.
In one such study,2 which involved nearly 208,000 veterans aged 46 to 74, 35 percent of those diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) developed insulin resistance in two years, compared to only 19 percent of those not diagnosed with PTSD.
PTSD sufferers also had higher rates of metabolic syndrome — a collection of risk factors that raise your risk of heart disease, such as high body fat, cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. More than half (about 53 percent) of veterans with PTSD had several of these symptoms, compared to 37 percent of those not suffering with PTSD.
A Positive Outlook Reduces Your Heart Attack Risk
If negative emotions have the potential to harm your heart, it would stand to reason that positive emotions may heal it, and this indeed seems to be the case. In a study3 of nearly 1,500 people with an increased risk of early-onset coronary artery disease, those who reported being cheerful, relaxed, satisfied with life, and full of energy had a one-third reduction in coronary events like a heart attack.
Those with the highest risk of coronary events enjoyed an even greater risk reduction of nearly 50 percent. This was true even when other heart disease risk factors, such as smoking, age, and diabetes, were taken into account. Separate research has similarly found that:
- Positive psychological well-being is associated with a consistent reduced risk of coronary heart disease (CHD)4
- Emotional vitality may protect against risk of CHD in men and women5
- Cheerful heart disease patients live longer than pessimistic heart patients 6
- Very optimistic people have lower risks of dying from any cause, as well as lower risks of dying from heart disease, compared to highly pessimistic people7
Yes, Your Heart Also Affects Your Mind
In one test, Malone is shown a series of images of neutral and frightened faces, some synced in time to his heartbeat, and others not synced to his heart. Interestingly, when the frightened faces were shown in sync with his heartbeat, he perceived them as being more intensely frightened than when shown out of sync with his heartbeat.
What this test showed was that how his mind processed the perception of fear was affected by his heart. When his brain processed the image in sync with his heart, there was a greater “resonance” in the emotional output.
By looking at the brain scans taken during the test, the researchers are able to pinpoint the precise brain region affected by the heart, namely the amygdala — an area known to be associated with threat perception. Your amygdala processes fear in combination with the signaling from your heart. This brain-heart connection is also at work when you experience feelings of compassion and empathizing with other people’s emotional states.
As Malone says, “it is our heart working in tandem with our brain that allows us to feel for others ... It is ultimately what makes us human... Compassion is the heart’s gift to the rational mind.”
Many believe that conscious awareness originates in the brain alone. Recent scientific research suggests that consciousness actually emerges from the brain and body acting together. A growing body of evidence suggests that the heart plays a particularly significant role in this process.
Far more than a simple pump, as was once believed, the heart is now recognized by scientists as a highly complex system with its own functional “brain.”
Research in the new discipline of neurocardiology shows that the heart is a sensory organ and a sophisticated center for receiving and processing information. The nervous system within the heart (or “heart brain”) enables it to learn, remember, and make functional decisions independent of the brain’s cerebral cortex. Moreover, numerous experiments have demonstrated that the signals the heart continuously sends to the brain influence the function of higher brain centers involved in perception, cognition, and emotional processing.
In addition to the extensive neural communication network linking the heart with the brain and body, the heart also communicates information to the brain and throughout the body via electromagnetic field interactions. The heart generates the body’s most powerful and most extensive rhythmic electromagnetic field. Compared to the electromagnetic field produced by the brain, the electrical component of the heart’s field is about 60 times greater in amplitude, and permeates every cell in the body. The magnetic component is approximately 5000 times stronger than the brain’s magnetic field and can be detected several feet away from the body with sensitive magnetometers.
The heart generates a continuous series of electromagnetic pulses in which the time interval between each beat varies in a dynamic and complex manner. The heart’s ever-present rhythmic field has a powerful influence on processes throughout the body. We have demonstrated, for example, that brain rhythms naturally synchronize to the heart’s rhythmic activity, and also that during sustained feelings of love or appreciation, the blood pressure and respiratory rhythms, among other oscillatory systems, entrain to the heart’s rhythm.
We propose that the heart’s field acts as a carrier wave for information that provides a global synchronizing signal for the entire body. Specifically, we suggest that as pulsing waves of energy radiate out from the heart, they interact with organs and other structures. The waves encode or record the features and dynamic activity of these structures in patterns of energy waveforms that are distributed throughout the body. In this way, the encoded information acts to in-form (literally, give shape to) the activity of all bodily functions—to coordinate and synchronize processes in the body as a whole. This perspective requires an energetic concept of information, in which patterns of organization are enfolded into waves of energy of system activity distributed throughout the system as a whole.
Basic research at the Institute of HeartMath shows that information pertaining to a person’s emotional state is also communicated throughout the body via the heart’s electromagnetic field. The rhythmic beating patterns of the heart change significantly as we experience different emotions. Negative emotions, such as anger or frustration, are associated with an erratic, disordered, incoherent pattern in the heart’s rhythms. In contrast, positive emotions, such as love or appreciation, are associated with a smooth, ordered, coherent pattern in the heart’s rhythmic activity. In turn, these changes in the heart’s beating patterns create corresponding changes in the structure of the electromagnetic field radiated by the heart, measurable by a technique called spectral analysis.
More specifically, we have demonstrated that sustained positive emotions appear to give rise to a distinct mode of functioning, which we call psychophysiological coherence. During this mode, heart rhythms exhibit a sine wave-like pattern and the heart’s electromagnetic field becomes correspondingly more organized.
At the physiological level, this mode is characterized by increased efficiency and harmony in the activity and interactions of the body’s systems.
Psychologically, this mode is linked with a notable reduction in internal mental dialogue, reduced perceptions of stress, increased emotional balance, and enhanced mental clarity, intuitive discernment, and cognitive performance.
In sum, our research suggests that psychophysiological coherence is important in enhancing consciousness—both for the body’s sensory awareness of the information required to execute and coordinate physiological function, and also to optimize emotional stability, mental function, and intentional action. Furthermore, as we see next, there is experimental evidence that psychophysiological coherence may increase our awareness of and sensitivity to others around us. The Institute of HeartMath has created practical technologies and tools that all people can use to increase coherence.
Heart Field Interactions Between Individuals
Most people think of social communication solely in terms of overt signals expressed through language, voice qualities, gestures, facial expressions, and body movements. However, there is now evidence that a subtle yet influential electromagnetic or “energetic” communication system operates just below our conscious awareness. Energetic interactions likely contribute to the “magnetic” attractions or repulsions that occur between individuals, and also affect social exchanges and relationships. Moreover, it appears that the heart’s field plays an important role in communicating physiological, psychological, and social information between individuals.
Experiments conducted at the Institute of HeartMath have found remarkable evidence that the heart’s electromagnetic field can transmit information between people. We have been able to measure an exchange of heart energy between individuals up to 5 feet apart. We have also found that one person’s brain waves can actually synchronize to another person’s heart. Furthermore, when an individual is generating a coherent heart rhythm, synchronization between that person’s brain waves and another person’s heartbeat is more likely to occur. These findings have intriguing implications, suggesting that individuals in a psychophysiologically coherent state become more aware of the information encoded in the heart fields of those around them.
The results of these experiments have led us to infer that the nervous system acts as an “antenna,” which is tuned to and responds to the electromagnetic fields produced by the hearts of other individuals. We believe this capacity for exchange of energetic information is an innate ability that heightens awareness and mediates important aspects of true empathy and sensitivity to others Furthermore, we have observed that this energetic communication ability can be intentionally enhanced, producing a much deeper level of nonverbal communication, understanding, and connection between people. There is also intriguing evidence that heart field interactions can occur between people and animals.
In short, energetic communication via the heart field facilitates development of an expanded consciousness in relation to our social world.
The Heart’s Field and Intuition
There are also new data suggesting that the heart’s field is directly involved in intuitive perception, through its coupling to an energetic information field outside the bounds of space and time. Using a rigorous experimental design, we found compelling evidence that both the heart and brain receive and respond to information about a future event before the event actually happens. Even more surprising was our finding that the heart appears to receive this “intuitive” information before the brain. This suggests that the heart’s field may be linked to a more subtle energetic field that contains information on objects and events remote in space or ahead in time. Called by Karl Pribram and others the “spectral domain,” this is a fundamental order of potential energy that enfolds space and time, and is thought to be the basis for our consciousness of “the whole.”
In the same way that the heart generates energy in the body, we propose that the social collective is the activator and regulator of the energy in social systems.
A body of groundbreaking work shows how the field of socioemotional interaction between a mother and her infant is essential to brain development, the emergence of consciousness, and the formation of a healthy self-concept. These interactions are organized along two relational dimensions—stimulation of the baby’s emotions, and regulation of shared emotional energy. Together they form a socioemotional field through which enormous quantities of psychobiological and psychosocial information are exchanged. Coherent organization of the mother-child relations that make up this field is critical. This occurs when interactions are charged, most importantly, with positive emotions (love, joy, happiness, excitement, appreciation, etc.), and are patterned as highly synchronized, reciprocal exchanges between these two individuals. These patterns are imprinted in the child’s brain and thus influence psychosocial function throughout life. (See Allan Schore, Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self.)
Moreover in a longitudinal study of 46 social groups, one of us (RTB) documented how information about the global organization of a group—the group’s collective consciousness—appears to be transmitted to all members by an energetic field of socio-emotional connection. Data on the relationships between each pair of members was found to provide an accurate image of the social structure of the group as a whole. Coherent organization of the group’s social structure is associated with a network of positively charged emotions (love, excitement, and optimism) connecting all members. This network of positive emotions appears to constitute a field of energetic connection into which information about the group’s social structure is encoded and distributed throughout the group. Remarkably, an accurate picture of the group’s overall social structure was obtained from information only about relationships between pairs of individuals. We believe the only way this is possible is if information about the organization of the whole group is distributed to all members of the group via an energetic field. Such correspondence in information between parts and the whole is consistent with the principle of holographic organization.
Synthesis and Implications
Some organizing features of the heart field, identified in numerous studies at HeartMath, may also be shared by those of our hypothesized social field. Each is a field of energy in which the waveforms of energy encode the features of objects and events as energy moves throughout the system. This creates a nonlocal order of energetic information in which each location in the field contains an enfolded image of the organization of the whole system at that moment. The organization and processing of information in these energy fields can best be understood in terms of quantum holographic principles.
Another commonality is the role of positive emotions, such as love and appreciation, in generating coherence both in the heart field and in social fields. When the movement of energy is intentionally regulated to form a coherent, harmonious order, information integrity and flow are optimized. This, in turn, produces stable, effective system function, which enhances health, psychosocial well-being, and intentional action in the individual or social group.
Heart coherence and social coherence may also act to mutually reinforce each other. As individuals within a group increase psychophysiological coherence, psychosocial attunement may be increased, thereby increasing the coherence of social relations. Similarly, the creation of a coherent social field by a group may help support the generation and maintenance of psychophysiological coherence in its individual members. An expanded, deepened awareness and consciousness results—of the body’s internal physiological, emotional, and mental processes, and also of the deeper, latent orders enfolded into the energy fields that surround us. This is the basis of self-awareness, social sensitivity, creativity, intuition, spiritual insight, and understanding of ourselves and all that we are connected to. It is through the intentional generation of coherence in both heart and social fields that a critical shift to the next level of planetary consciousness can occur—one that brings us into harmony with the movement of the whole.
There is a certain flavor of misconception that occurs when a cultural belief intersects a scientific factoid that superficially seems to support the belief. A powerful meme emerges to the effect of – science now proves what we have known/believed all along. Gurus latch onto this idea to provide apparent credibility to their mysticism. The media eats it up.
One such meme that has been around for a while is that the heart contains brain cells, and therefore has a mind of its own, or at least is part of the human mind. There is a related meme that the GI system (the gut) also has a mind of its own.
The notion of “brain cells” in the heart has been co-opted to support various beliefs. One artist writes:
But for me it was exciting further evidence that thinking and mind is a deep connection between brain and mind and that we need to trigger all of our senses for effective creativity and learning.
It seems both heart and gut have minds of their own. Besides communicating with the brain, they might also be helping it develop, reducing depression and increasing the level of the individual’s well-being.
Guru Joseph Pearce (who apparently likes to be called, Joe) is quoted as saying:
The idea that we can think with our hearts is no longer just a metaphor, but is, in fact, a very real phenomenon. We now know this because the combined research of two or three fields is proving that the heart is the major center of intelligence in human beings.
He goes on to cite research about the feedback mechanisms from the heart to the limbic system of the brain.
What are these people talking about? The primary misconception here is to confuse “neuron” with “brain cell,” followed by equating brain cells with mind.
Not all neurons are brain cells (and not all brain cells are neurons – there are glia also, but that’s another story). Neurons are specialized cells of the nervous system that use the electrical potential across the membrane of all cells, which in neurons have evolved a special function, to trigger depolarizations that send an electrical signal down their axons which then sends a signal to another cell.
Not all neurons are in the brain. There are neurons in the spinal cord and in the peripheral nervous system as well.
Further, not all neurons contribute directly to the mind – conscious processes – or even subconscious processes beyond some basic sensory feedback to the brain. There is, for example, the autonomic nervous system, which (as the name implies) is concerned not with thinking but with regulating basic bodily function. This includes the function of the GI system and the heart.
It is no surprise, therefore, that the heart and the guts will contain their own specialized neurons that participate in autonomic function.
The function of the heart is highly regulated, because the demands on the cardiovascular system can fluctuate quickly and greatly. Just standing up requires a delicate adjustment in cardiac output and vessel tone in order to maintain perfusion pressure to the brain. Without this rapid adjustment we would get light-headed and possibly faint every time we stood up (this is a disorder some people have when there is a problem with autonomic function).
The heart responds to three systems that work together to regulate its function – the autonomic nervous system, the hormonal system (chemicals that are secreted in the blood that affect heart function, like adrenaline), and an intrinsic nervous system. The heart contains its own electrical system that regulates itself in order to keep the heart pumping in a coordinated fashion. This function is then further adjusted by the autonomic and hormonal systems.
A recent review of the evidence indicates that the heart contains a complex intrinsic nervous system comprised of multiple ganglia (clusters of neurons) that network with each other.
None of this means that the heart has a mind. It takes more than neurons, or even a system of neurons, to form a mind. A complex network of neurons can function like a computer chip, and no more has a mind than your laptop does.
It is true that the heart, like the rest of the body, especially the autonomic nervous system, provides sensory feedback to our brains. This can affect our emotions – when something physical is happening to our body we can feel anxious or depressed. Pain itself is a physical sensation that carries with it a specific emotional response, because pain pathways specifically send signal to the limbic system to create the negative emotional response to pain.
In the same way, in addition to anxiety making our heart race, when our heart races that makes us feel anxious. There is an obvious adaptive function here – our brains respond emotionally to the condition of our bodies, which might be telling us about a threat or danger.
None of this adds up to the heart or gut having a mind. The mind is entirely the product of the brain, which of course is part of the body and is extensively connected to the body through various feedback mechanisms – hardly a surprise.
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.
This is all a complex and fascinating system. It is a shame that some gurus exploit this for a cheap mystical metaphor, distorting the very cool science.