When I first heard about this, it intuitively made sense. Then as I delved into the research, it really confirmed what I have felt for a long time: that the heart has its own way of knowing.
Until recently, scientists assumed and most of us were taught that it was only the brain that sent information and issued commands to the heart, but now we know that it works both ways. The heart and head communicate via a number of pathways. Between them they continually exchange critical information that influences how the body functions.
Dr. J. Andrew Armour first introduced the term heart brain in 1991. Armour showed that the heart’s complex intrinsic nervous system qualified as a “little brain.” This heart brain, explains Science of the Heart, published by Institute of HeartMath, “is an intricate network of several types of neurons, neurotransmitters, proteins and support cells, like those found in the brain proper. Research has shown that the heart communicates to the brain in four major ways: neurologically (through the transmission of nerve impulses), biochemically (via hormones and neurotransmitters), biophysically (through pressure waves) and energetically (through electromagnetic field interactions).” Its elaborate circuitry enables it to act independently of the cranial brain – to learn, remember, and even feel and sense.
“Communication along all these conduits significantly affects the brain’s activity,” Science of the Heart says. “Moreover, research shows that messages the heart sends the brain can also affect performance.”
Coming Up – Heart Coherence
Although the heart and brain are in constant communication, each of us also has the capacity to consciously and intentionally direct our heart to communicate to the brain and body in beneficial ways.
When we intentionally experience sincere positive emotions, such as caring, compassion or appreciation for someone or something, the heart processes these emotions and the heart’s rhythm becomes more coherent and harmonious. The heart then sends this harmonious information throughout the entire body via the processes mentioned above– neurologically, biochemically, biophysically and energetically.
We’ve all had the experience of feeling the uplifting and harmonizing effects of sincere positive emotions. Now that we understand why, we can create those experiences more of the time. I often use one simple tool, called the Quick Coherence® technique, to shift into a positive feeling and coherent heart rhythm in less than a minute. It can take a little practice, but it gets easier and quicker the more you do it.
Up Next – The Quick Coherence Technique
- Heart Focus: Shift your attention to the area of the heart and breathe slowly and deeply.
- Heart Breathing: Keep your focus in the heart by gently breathing – five seconds in and five seconds out – through your heart. Do this two or three times.
- Heart Feeling: Activate and sustain a genuine feeling of appreciation or care for someone or something in your life. Focus on the good heart feeling as you continue to breathe through the area of your heart.
For a slide presentation and downloadable audio of Quick Coherence Technique (MP3) Click here
You can learn more about the heart brain, heart-brain interactions and the implications for personal performance, health, well-being and more on IHM’s web site in the Science of the Heart 70 page e-book (free).
Neurocardiology: Anatomical and Functional Principles e-book by J. Andrew Armour, M.D., Ph.D. An in-depth technical monograph written primarily for medical professionals, students, and researchers with a background in cardiology, neuroanatomy or neurophysiology. Click to purchase.