Heart-Brain Neurodynamics: The Making of Emotions

Heart-Brain Neurodynamics: The Making of Emotions

Rollin McCraty (Institute of HeartMath, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9065-1.ch010


As pervasive and vital as they are in human experience, emotions have long remained an enigma to science. This chapter explores recent scientific advances that clarify central controversies in the study of emotion, including the relationship between intellect and emotion and the historical debate on the source of emotional experience. Particular attention is given to the intriguing body of research illuminating the critical role of ascending input from the body to the brain in the generation and perception of emotions. This discussion culminates in the presentation of a new, systems-oriented model of emotion in which the brain functions as a complex pattern-matching system, continually processing input from both the external and internal environments. From this perspective, it is shown that the heart is a key component of the emotional system, thus providing a physiological basis for the long-acknowledged link between the heart and our emotional life.
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From the perspective presented in this paper, HeartMath interventions affect several aspects of the emotional process and result in what may be understood as the ethical restructuring of emotional patterns. Emotional restructuring techniques produce a positive emotion-driven shift in the heart’s rhythmic patterns, and thus a change in the pattern of cardiac afferent input to the brain. The coupling of a more organized pattern of afferent input with an intentionally self-generated positive emotion reinforces the natural conditioning between the coherent physiological mode and the positive emotion. This subsequently strengthens the ability of a positive emotional shift to initiate a physiological shift towards increased coherence that facilitates the experience of a positive emotion that conforms to ethical coherence in the Psychecology.

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