Is Pain in the Brain? Uncovering the Reason 40,000 Neurons Live in the Heart
In 1991 over 40,000 neurons were discovered on the heart. These neurons we can call the “little brain” or in black tie settings “intrinsic cardiac nervous system.”
These neurons connect directly to a branch of the vagus nerve, which is over 80% afferent, which means it talks to the brain 80% of the time and listens only 20%. What’s remarkable is that this cluster of neurons seems to have direct communication with the medulla, hippocampus, hypothalamus, thalamus, and amygdala.
Further research shows that modulation of pain in the brain is directly influenced by the rhythm and coherence of the heart. In fact that 80% signal from the heart is actually stronger in most cases than the body itself. That means the heart, is not nearly just a pump but quite literally the key modifier of our perception of pain.
I get questioned so often why I choose to do move into the world of biometric and HRV training. This is a huge reason. I cannot count how many people have learned somatic self-regulation skills that empirically have changed coherence levels in the heart and have lessened their opioid usage or gotten off it completely.
People with chronic pain that have tried “everything” suddenly start to gain improvement with biofeedback systems. The brain is now only getting chaotic sound from the heart but it can hear the music through the noise and begins to properly coordinate pain centers with proper tone.
Muscles relax, minds calm, anxiety melts, depression aligns and life begins to make more sense once the pain is gone. With the United States alone spending over 500 Billion (yes that is “B”).
Imagine if we started using the intelligence of the heart mixed with a splash of science some understanding of the power of our belief systems and some habit formation.
That’s a world I’ll keep researching for.