The phenomenon of cellular memory is based on a couple of scientific principles which have been gaining greater credence in the past two decades. In short, the heart, and other major organs capable of being transplanted easily, contains what may be considered to be a mini-replication of the brain that allows them to function after being removed from the donor’s central nervous system (see: ref). This is in part due to research which has shown the existence of neuropeptides, responsible for memory and other higher brain functions, throughout the body. The heart specifically seems to have an abundance of these receptors.
So far the evidence for such memory transfer through organ transplant are circumstantial and anecdotal. The most commonly cited cases including transference of preferences for food, music, sexual orientation, personal bias, goals, ambition, and fears. In some cases, facts about actual events – usually involving short term memory – are able to be recalled (see: ref).
Little is understood about how this actually works. While the suggestion of a neuropeptide link is present in the popular literature, this is such a new field of study that research on it is hard to come by. In fact you can actually find more information about the role of neuropeptides in the cosmetic industry for skin care than you can about how it works in the human body.
Two facts seem to stand out about the anecdotal evidence. The first is the tie to neuropeptide transmission between cerebral spinal fluid and the blood system which is suggested as the primary mechanism for interaction between the brain and the rest of the body (see: ref). The second is the assistance of epinephrine (adrenaline) in speeding up and enhancing the normal processes of major organs (see: ref).
In addition, memory seems to be influenced by our emotional state and, more specifically, by the amygdale which is responsible for production of epinephrine in the brain. Epinephrine from the amygdale has been shown to impact the cerebellum which controls motor coordination, speech, and language (see: ref).
High levels of epinephrine have been linked to stress resulting in insomnia and jittery nerves among other ailments. The build-up of amines (which includes epinephrine) therefore doesn’t seem to be in the best interest of memory function. Such accumulations can be brought into balance through activities which increase the metabolism of these substances, such as through exercise.
There would seem to be a couple of consequences from these musing that have an impact on whole-body wellness. For example, regular exercise (which I must admit to not doing enough of myself) helps to remove excess epinephrine from the body. Another benefit may be that in exercising our brains we are in some ways exercising our bodies – which would account for why seniors who are regularly engaged in activities which keep their minds active seem to retain more of their youth than do seniors who do not.
Beyond this however there may be the possibility for new medical sciences such as the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease through procedures not related to correcting chemical imbalances in the brain but rather to improve on neuropeptide receptivity in the body. Healthy organs could equate to the reduction in mental deficiencies as we grow older. Such may be the case with the reduction of things such as low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol (see: ref) heavy metals, and other non-natural additives found in processed foods and containers.
As an extreme example, it has often been found that sometimes the most bizarre advances deemed as science fiction are in fact one of the simplest procedures to do medically once the right advances have been made. Heart transplants for example, once thought to be impossible, proved to be one of the easiest organs to transplant once a mechanism to keep blood circulation in the rest of the body was developed during the procedure. By contrast, while it may not be possible to unlock the mysteries of memory and experience locked in the brain anytime soon – the ability to decode cellular memory in a much simpler organ, such as the heart, may be more realistic – and in so doing be able to capture the katra essence of a loved one who has passed on in their likes, dislikes, loves, and passions.
It would certainly give a whole new meaning to the idea of knowledge transfer.
— Kevin Feenan