Let Your Heart Talk to Your Brain

Did you know that the heart contains a brain in its own right? What do researchers mean when they talk about heart-brain interactions? Why is it important to you?

Researchers at the Institute of HeartMath and other organizations have shown that the human heart, in addition to its other functions, actually possesses the equivalent of its own brain, called the heart brain, which interacts and communicates with the head brain.

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.

Next – Heart-Brain Communication Pathways

Heart-Brain Communication Pathways

Heart-Brain Communication Pathways Diagram

The diagram above shows the neural communication pathways between the heart and the brain. The heart’s intrinsic nervous system consists of ganglia, which contain local circuit neurons of several types, and sensory neurites, which are distributed throughout the heart. The intrinsic ganglia process and integrate inflowing information from the extrinsic nervous system and from the sensory neurites within the heart. The extrinsic cardiac ganglia, located in the thoracic cavity, have direct connections to organs such as the lungs and esophagus and are also indirectly connected via the spinal cord to many other organs, including the skin and arteries. The “afferent” (flowing to the brain) parasympathetic information travels from the heart to the brain through the vagus nerve to the medulla, after passing through the nodose ganglion. The sympathetic afferent nerves first connect to the extrinsic cardiac ganglia (also a processing center), then to the dorsal root ganglion and the spinal cord. Once afferent signals reach the medulla, they travel to the subcortical areas (thalamus, amygdala, etc.) and then to the cortical areas.

“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

Happy women with dog

One important way the heart can speak to and influence the brain is when the heart is coherent – generating a stable, sine-wavelike pattern in its rhythms. When the heart is coherent, the body, including the brain, begins to experience all sorts of benefits, among them greater mental clarity and intuitive ability, including better decision-making.

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

Kids on end of pier
Try it for yourself and let me know what you experience.

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.


Mohamed Amine H.
Mohamed Amine H.6 years ago

I read a paper about hearts tranplantation and changes : “Changements de personnalité chez les transplantés du cœur faisant écho à celle de leur donneur”: http://www.retrouversonnord.be/memoirecellulaire.htm

J ' I read your article and wants that you khow that we musulims believe that the heart is the center of the thought and the memory : In Noble QURAN, and SuNNA (teh hadeeth of Prophet Muhammed) there are many AYA and hadeeth prouvs that:
1-Aya: ﴿أَفَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَتَكُونَ لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ يَعْقِلُونَ بِهَا أَوْ آذَانٌ يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا فَإِنَّهَا لَا تَعْمَى الْأَبْصَارُ وَلَكِن تَعْ

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener7 years ago

And vice versa!

Jane Barton
Jane Barton7 years ago

What's the "Holy Spirit" got to do with this? What a convoluted bunch of blabbering about imaginary "spirits". There ARE no imaginary "gods", there is only US. All these dreams and
imaginations and "feelings" are between crazy peoples' ears and that's IT. There are no fairy spirits out there that are going to "save" us. "Love" feels like it coming from the heart but it's not, it originates in the BRAIN. It's a proven fact. This is "snake oil" selling itself as "science".

Nicole Andrea
Nicole Andrea7 years ago

it works!

Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton7 years ago

Fascinating - thanks for posting.

rene davis
irene davis7 years ago

thank you

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson7 years ago

amazing.. the human body is so very interesting

Allelyah Always
Allelyah Always7 years ago

This is useful communication and it is good to know that the only life that can use it is life that can tell itself something and not all life does (there are two areas). Once an existence understands about the unity of the circulatory circumstance with the central nervous system, the heart no longer communicates out of it's area to the area of the brain and the two use themselves seeing and knowing instantaneously and doing and saying when it is caused interesting. What is being described here is the functioning of what some area refer to as the Holy Spirit when it is purposeful toward good counsel and transformation into perfect unity with your whole existence (which includes the life of activity one goes around with which must be set to a communication of infatuation in order for it not to be caused as integrations with aware nervous system communication).

Terry S.
Terry S7 years ago

I enticed a friend, who's the senior US medical editor for a major international trades publisher, to review this sales pitch and the linked marketing site. She agrees with me that it's junk pseudo-science, deserving rejection as fraud and not promotion as if science to low hanging fruit too lazy or illiterate to inspect for facts indicating that. Care2 has severely degraded itself by fostering an atmosphere of mutual mental masturbation over frauds like this.

Jon Hoy
Jonjon Hoy7 years ago

Isn't our subconsious mind our heart when it's always right.