The Heart-Brain Connection

… A brain without a body could not think; at least, the continuity of mental functions is assured by corresponding motor functions … it is of course possible with sufficient training partially to inhibit the motor aspect of the thinking and thus increase the facility of thinking.1

The idea is simple: your capacity to think is prevalent upon your capacity to move. And while with training it is possible to lessen the dependence of thinking upon movement to some degree, the two remain inseparable. The mind is inexorably linked to the body and its myriad sensations–the brain receives an overwhelming amount of sensory information from the body, processes all of it, determines what is pertinent, acts on that information and discards the rest:

The brain is dependent on the physiological state of the body in two ways. First, the brain requires appropriate conditions (physiological context) for the efficient biological functioning. Second, the brain receives and responds to continuous dynamic feedback of afferent visceral signals (informational context) that shape its operational functioning.2

This suggests that in order to maintain a healthy mind, you must maintain a healthy body. As you have seen in Heart Rate Variability: Finding the Pulse On Your Emotions, your mind works most efficiently when the body is in good working order. Or, more specifically, when your heart is in good working order–which is dependent on the rest of the body doing its job to keep your heart healthy. This is due to the myriad of connections from the heart to the brain. Because the heart is so deeply linked to the various structures of the brain, the heart is incredibly influential on the brain’s activity:

The heart is the primary and most consistent source of dynamic rhythmic patterns in the body. Furthermore, the afferent networks connecting the heart and cardiovascular system with the brain are far more extensive than the afferent systems associated with other major organs. Additionally, the heart is particularly sensitive and responsive to changes in a number of other psychophysiological systems. For example, heart rhythm patterns are continually and rapidly modulated by changes in the activity of either branch of the [autonomic nervous system], and the heart’s extensive intrinsic network of sensory neurons also enables it to detect and respond to variations in hormonal rhythms and patterns. In addition to functioning as a sophisticated information processing and encoding center, the heart is also an endocrine gland that produces and secretes hormones and neurotransmitters. … with each beat, the heart not only pumps blood, but also continually transmits dynamic patterns of neurological, hormonal, pressure, and electromagnetic information to the brain and throughout the body. Therefore, the multiple inputs from the heart and cardiovascular system to the brain are a major contributor in establishing the dynamics of the familiar baseline pattern or set point against which the current input of “now” is compared.3

References:

1Feldenkrais, M. (n.d.). Mind and Body. Retrieved from http://www.feldenkraismethod.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Mind-and-Body-Moshe-Feldenkrais.pdf

2Critchley, H. D., & Harrison, N. A. (2013, February 20). Visceral influences on brain and behavior. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23439117

3McCraty, R., Atkinson, M., Tomasino, D., & Bradley, R. T. (2009, December). The Coherent Heart: Heart–Brain Interactions, Psychophysiological Coherence, and the Emergence of System-Wide Order. Retrieved from https://www.heartmath.org/research/research-library/basic/coherent-heart-heart-brain-interactions-psychophysiological-coherence-emergence-system-wide-order/

Feature image by:
israel palacio