The heart and the brain: both perform critical functions in the human body. The heart acts as the vital lynchpin for our organs, pumping blood non-stop, and the brain operates as the computer, the scientific controls. While their individual roles in our functioning are paramount, for the longest time specialists in cardio and neuro have considered these two systems as somewhat separate. That mode of thinking may be about to change thanks to work conducted by University of Sussex researcher Sarah Garfinkel.
Garfinkel’s specialty is in exploring the connections between these two areas. Her research projects have turned up evidence that our heart, and our own awareness of it, has a direct effect on a number of things typically associated with brain activity: anxiety, racism, and even stock trading.
“The brain essentially flashes each time the heart beats,” she tells Science of Us, “and the degree of signal in the brain corresponds to how fast and how hard the heart is beating, so the brain is in dynamic, constant communication with the heart.” Specific areas include those centers associated with fear and pain.
In short, the message here is that our brains reflect what’s happening elsewhere in our bodies, says Garfinkel: “Your brain is your brain, but it also represents the activity of our organs, and whether you realize it or not, these sensations guide the way you navigate the world.”
Garfinkel says that most of us are already aware of this connection: “I think the general public kind of knows it instinctively, they know if they exercise they feel better, they know their mood changes, their cognition and memory increases; people who meditate also see changes in their cognition and emotion.”
3000 years ago, Chinese Medicine began its quest in developing strategies for optimal health with this basic tenet in mind:the way we navigate through this world and through our lives is dependent on how well our organs and physical body are functioning. Traditional Chinese Medicine aims to improve organ function, especially the heart, so that the subsequent reflection in the brain – our thoughts – are shaped through a healthy lens of perception. Quite simply put, optimal organ function means a joyful and balanced life.
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