Does the Hu­man Heart have Mem­ory?

Guru Magazine - - ASK A GURU -

Asked by Sa­man­tha Whi­ley. There are sto­ries of heart trans­plant pa­tients tak­ing on char­ac­ter­is­tics of the donor. In one case, the re­cip­i­ent de­vel­oped a crav­ing for the donor’s favourite snack. This has been called ‘cel­lu­lar mem­ory’ or ‘body mem­ory’: a pseu­do­science with no ba­sis in rig­or­ous sci­en­tific test­ing. How­ever, even though there isn’t any hard ev­i­dence of ‘cel­lu­lar mem­ory’ in hu­mans, it may ex­ist in other species, as sug­gested by this news ar­ti­cle in Na­ture. A slime mould is a sin­gle-celled or­gan­ism (and there­fore with­out brain) that is of­ten found on the for­est floor. They oc­ca­sion­ally group up to search for food, and there is one species charm­ingly named the ‘dog vomit’ slime mould, which looks ex­actly as you’d pic­ture it In the Na­ture ex­per­i­ment, slime moulds were given elec­tric shocks at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals. Re­mark­ably, the sci­en­tists found that the slime ac­tu­ally be­gan to an­tic­i­pate the shocks. Even af­ter a few hours of be­ing left alone, the slime seemed to re­mem­ber the ex­act pat­tern in which the shocks were ap­plied. (They were shak­ing their fists at those damned sci­en­tists - Ed.) Clearly, cel­lu­lar mem­ory does ex­ist in some form, but it prob­a­bly can’t ex­plain the strange phe­nom­e­non of hearts pass­ing on per­son­al­ity traits from their donors. But as the Na­ture ex­per­i­ment shows, slime mould mem­ory may help us bet­ter un­der­stand the evo­lu­tion­ary ori­gins of our own mem­ory.

An­swered by Sham­bra­lyn Baker

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