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A Message From Our Editor, Issue #51 – The Heart Brain

By Jeanne Ohm, DC

This issue of Pathways is rich in information introducing readers to Stephen Porges’s newly proposed concept of the social branch of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), the social vagus. Our articles offer a glimpse of understanding for humanity from both an individual, physiological perspective and also a collective, sociological viewpoint.

As chiropractors, we emphasize the importance of the brain as the master controller of all body systems and functions. When the brain’s signals through the nervous system become impaired by misalignments to the cranium and spine, less intelligence is transmitted to the body’s systems, impairing important functions.

In 1991, new scientific discoveries revealed that there are sensory neurites in the heart. This discovery became known as “the little brain in the heart.” Now, undeniably, we recognize that the heart has the neurological capacity to think, learn, remember, and feel, just as the brain does. Discussion abounds about these two organs and the potent neurological network between them.

Although this is a new discovery for western culture, indigenous peoples have understood its basis for centuries. In their cultural customs, they have recognized the importance of tuning in to this heart intelligence, as it is the essence of their way of life. In fact, these indigenous people prepare themselves in such a way that the head brain actually receives instruction from the heart brain.

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” —Antoine De Saint-Exupery

For example, scientist and author Gregg Braden tells us: “In the native traditions of the Midwest, there is a phrase for heart wisdom that has no direct equivalent in the English language. The phrase is chante ista (pronounced “shawn-tay eeshta”) from the Lakota Sioux language and roughly translates as ‘the single eye of the heart.’ ”

Chiropractic has recognized that physical, chemical, and emotional stressors affect neurological function. We also see how adjustments can stabilize and heal physical traumas and chemical deficiencies. This is largely by recognizing the brain as the master controller of all systems and functions. But what about those patients who report outstanding changes in their emotional and social well-being once they start chiropractic care? Perhaps their heart brain is activated with the adjustments, and performance is enhanced in these cardiac sensory neurites. This is where I think Porges’s theory of the social branch of the ANS, the little brain of the heart, and chiropractic adjustment all connect. After all, the heart is innervated by the social vagus. Chiropractic care directly affects vagus nerve function. And the vagus nerve stimulates the production of oxytocin, the hormone of love.

In today’s hectic and seemingly chaotic climate, more and more people are proclaiming the importance of restoring love into our lives, our parenting practices, and our educational and cultural systems. Every aspect of our society seems to be in dire need of more healing love. As several authors discuss in this issue, we can become so disconnected with the potential of our social well-being and its place of origin, our heart center. Has our hardwiring for love been disconnected?

Certainly, there are cultural methods we have adopted surrounding pregnancy and birth, parenting, and schooling that create a physiological disconnect from love. Can our awareness of these misguided procedures be the impetus for change? What about the neurological disconnect that these practices engender? Can they be restored by changing our modern, yet physiologically unsound, routines?

It is my humble opinion that we are heading into a new story, one in which our realization of the importance of this neurological expression becomes paramount in the life choices we make for ourselves and our children. One in which we recognize how the chiropractic adjustment restores our innate capacity for this to occur. One in which we open our hearts to new possibilities and regain a more profound expression of human potential.

For the raising of the consciousness, Jeanne Ohm, D.C.