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More On Cellular Memory. New Heart, New Personality, Too?February 17, 2009

Posted Nov 04 2009 10:02pm


I have been writing this blog for over a year, and it is with great interest that I watch which of my posts gets the most attention.  Cellular Memory – Organ Recipients with Characteristics of Donorsi s far and away the most popular of all the columns I have written by a factor of over two to one.   Why is that?   Why are so many people so interested in the possibility of adopting the characteristics of a total stranger?   I had a heart transplant eighteen months ago and have adopted no new characteristics but apparently that’s not true of all organ recipients.   Heart transplant patients lead the way in saying they have changed — taken on some of the characteristics of their donors and some of their stories are compelling.



I am not here to promote nor deny the existence of cellular memory I just find the topic fascinating especially because so many of my readers do.   Not long ago The Discovery Health Channel aired a program titled “Transplanting Memories.”  In the show experts explained why they believe in the concept.   Georgetown University Professor, Dr. Candace Pert, said she believes the mind is not just in the brain, but also exists throughout the body. “The mind and body communicate with each other through chemicals known as peptides,” she said. “These peptides are found in the brain as well as in the stomach, muscles and all of our major organs. I believe that memory can be accessed anywhere in the peptide/receptor network. For instance, a memory associated with food may be linked to the pancreas or liver and such associations can be transplanted from one person to another.”



Another expert, German neurologist, Leopold Auerbach, discovered over a century ago that a complex network of nerve cells, like those of the human brain, exist in the intestines.   And — Professor Wolfgang Prinz, of the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research, Munich, discussed the “second brain” in Geo, a German science magazine.   Prinz said the digestive track is made up of a knot of about 100 billion brain nerve cells, more than found in the spinal cord. The article suggested the cells may save information on physical reactions to mental processes and give out signals to influence later decisions. It may also be involved in emotional reactions to events.



Perhaps all of this explains the many stories on the internet of transplant patients taking on the personalities of their donors.  


If you really want to explore this phenomenon I strongly encourage you to read Knowing By Heart: Cellular Memory in Heart Transplants by Kate Ruth Linton in theMONTGOMERY COLLEGE STUDENT JOURNAL OF SCIENCE & MATHEMATICS

Volume 2 September 2003,   


Ms. Linton writes:   “On May 29, 1988, a woman named Claire Sylvia received the heart of an 18-year-old

male who had been killed in a motorcycle accident. Soon after the operation, Sylvia

noticed some distinct changes in her attitudes, habits, and tastes. She found herself acting

more masculine, strutting down the street (which, being a dancer, was not her usual

manner of walking). She began craving foods, such as green peppers and beer, which she

had always disliked before. Sylvia even began having recurring dreams about a mystery

man named Tim L., who she had a feeling was her donor.


As it turns out, he was. Upon meeting the “family of her heart” as she put it, Sylvia

discovered that her donor’s name was, in fact, Tim L., and that all the changes she had

been experiencing in her attitudes, tastes, and habits closely mirrored that of Tim’s.”


Several transplant surgeons have contributed to a theory for cellular memory essentially

based on psychological and metaphysical conditions, which Dr. Paul Pearsall has pieced

together. Pearsall is a psychoneuroimmunologist, or a licensed psychologist who studies

the relationship between the brain, immune system, and an individual’s life experiences.  Pearsall calls this theory the “Lowered Recall Threshold” Basically, it suggests that the immunosuppressive drugs that transplant recipients must take are what bring about associations to donor experiences in recipients. Immunosuppressive drugs minimize the chances of rejection of the new, foreign heart by suppressing the recipient’s immune system. Scientists believe these drugs could also possibly act as psychotropic, meaning “acting on the mind.”


There are many interesting passages in this treatise but you should read it for yourself — in its entirety.   If nothing else you will find it very, very thought provoking.   There’s a lot of information on this subject on the internet.   You might also be interested in:  


Please comment in the space below or email your thoughts to   me at


Please read and comment on myWorld Wide Issuesblogs on  Also…visit myFacebook site, Organ Transplant Patients, Friends and Youat OR — myFacebook home page

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