Great article By Drake Baer about the brain/heart connection. This piece is eye-opening for those looking for therapies to deal with anxiety.
“Every time the heart projects blood, it pings pressure-sensitive receptors that send signals to the head. “The brain essentially flashes each time the heart beats,” she says, “and the degree of signal in the brain corresponds to how fast and how hard the heart is beating, so the brain is in dynamic, constant communication with the heart,” especially the amygdala and thalamus, regions associated with fear and pain perception, among other roles. Yes, she tells Science of Us, your brain is your brain, but it also represents the activity of our organs, and whether you realize it or not, these sensations guide the way you navigate the world. Recognizing this marks a shift in how neuroscience could be approached, she says: Rather than separating the brain and the body, the brain is seen as embedded within the body. Doing so could offer new treatments for things like anxiety, where drugs could target bodily processes as well as those in the brain, or behavioral techniques like meditation that make people more bodily aware.
“I think the general public kind of knows it instinctively, they know if they exercise they feel better, they know their mood changes, their cognition and memory increases; people who meditate also see changes in their cognition and emotion,” she told Science of Us at this year’s meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. “It’s a responsibility of the scientific community to better understand these mechanisms and promote them as scientific — I feel instinctively that there’s a split where people think there are ‘scientific treatments’ like drugs, and there’s these ‘alternative treatments,’ and why do we need the distinction? If we can look at body-brain mechanisms, they can be scientific treatments as well — we just don’t yet know the mechanisms.”