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.” http://dsc.discovery.com/ 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
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.”