Research in neurocardiology has produced some fascinating perspectives on the interaction of the brain and the heart. According to Professor Mohamed Omar Salem, “It has long been thought that conscious awareness originates in the brain alone. Recent scientific studies suggest that consciousness emerges from the brain and body acting together…a growing body of evidence now suggests that the heart plays a particularly significant role in this process. The above findings indicate that the heart is far more than a simple pump. In fact, it is seen now as a highly complex, self-organizing information processing center with its own functional ‘brain’ that communicates with, and influences, the cranial brain via the nervous system, hormonal system and other pathways.” This is quite astonishing.
It has traditionally been understood that when we speak about the heart as the center of emotions and as the seat of intelligence that we were speaking metaphorically, as in the Qur’anic verse “…hearts with which they understand not” (7:179). In fact, it turns out that the heart is literally a “heart brain” and that the heart and the brain are constantly exchanging information. According to the recent studies, the heart sends more information to the brain than vice versa. And negative emotions such as frustration or anger create erratic heart rhythms, increase stress hormone levels, constrict blood vessels, raise blood pressure, and weaken the immune system; while positive emotions such as love, gratitude, and compassion create a heart rhythm pattern that has been described as “gently rolling hills.” Brain and heart — once again, we see the importance of balance!