In times long gone by, the heart was evidenced to be responsible for all our thoughts and feelings. They also thought of the heart as the epitome, or personification, for affection, love and romance. Today, we have what is called the “HeartMath” equation — with the heart being the seat of intelligence. While it is obvious that our ancients got it somewhat amiss, the metaphor of their imagination has stood the test of time and also civilisation. The heart continues to be the “temple” of love — be it Hollywood, or Bollywood, as also real life. A boy falling head over heels for a girl, and vice versa, is part of life, not just celluloid, or novel, or storybook — as it was since the dawn of time.
You’d think of a simile that the brain, like the heart, in terms of affection, is the quintessence of our emotions, as also mental life. There is something predictable in either parallel. Just as anyone would “touch” their head when asked where their thoughts emanate from, all of us relate to our hearts when we express affection, admiration, or appreciation. The only paradox is not everyone would think of the heart and mind to be seamlessly connected, while most of us would refer to the mind and brain as being one and also sharing the same position or, perhaps, something robust, viz., that the mind is nothing, but the brain and vice versa.
It is obvious that our mind is similar to the brain in its thought patterns, processes and/or emergence — what distinguishes our mentality and temperament is the brain with all its anatomical and physiological structures and capacities. If some of our mediaeval philosophers called the brain “the seat of our mental life,” modern science attests that the brain is a complex mechanism having ubiquitous, yet fully organised, psychoneurological connections — the convergence of mental portents with the neural fabric of the brain. This is what that correlates to the seminal idea of homeostasis, or balance, in health and its aberration in illness.
Picture this: When one suffers from a traumatic injury to the brain, they not only go blank, the impact also truncates their emotional and mental balance, including their normal, taken-for-granted, ability to reason, recall, perceive, or describe things and events. It leads to a dramatic decline in the individual’s cognitive functions, not just capabilities, while altering their personality, or temperament. This can also happen — the difference being of degree — with the use of psychoactive drugs, or antidepressants, or alcohol abuse, owing to chemical changes in the brain. The resultant effect is: mood changes, emotional upheavals and wedged cognitive functions, owing to certain upsurges and changes in the brain. We’ve today, at our disposal, advanced brain imaging techniques that allow us to perceive as to what is precisely happening in our brains when we are involved in certain mental activities, or in the aftermath of a harrowing accident. The inference is obvious — prodigious scientific validation upholds the supremacy of the brain as the defining, or causal, factor of our mental and emotional life.
It is this impeccable knowledge that provides us the scientific exactitude to articulate a wide-ranging, yet specific proposition of our mind-brain and mind-body connect, including the emerging science of body intelligence. If philosopher Aristotle would have been alive today, he’d have certainly placed his transcendental idea of the heart being “the engine of our mentality” to one level, while elevating our mind-brain correlation to a higher level — as two divergent aspects of one essential reality.
(The writer is a wellness physician, independent researcher and author)