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Heart transplants, memory transplants?

Last night More4 TV showed a programme which claimed that some people who have heart transplants acquire characteristics and even memories formerly possessed by the donors of the hearts.

On the face of it, this seems extremely unlikely. The only explanation offered for the alleged memory transfer was that the heart apparently contains neurons (nerve cells). Some researchers in the USA appeared, reporting experiments they had carried out, but these raised more questions than they answered.

For example, one man said he had found that subjects shown emotionally charged pictures had changes in the electrical activity of their hearts, which doesn't seem surprising. But he also seemed to say, almost in passing, that these heart changes sometimes occurred before they were shown the pictures. This would seem to be a claim for ESP, but nothing was made of it so the question was left hanging.

One obvious query that occured to me is whether the phenomenon is confined to heart transplants. Do people who receive donor kidneys or livers also gain memories from the donors? And, if they do, does it make a difference if the donor is still alive?

Altogether, I was left unconvinced by the programme, which was largely anecdotal. It also confused the issue by showing long sequences of emotional reunions between recipients of hearts and relatives of the donor; these were not really relevant to the memory issue.


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