- A large body of empirical evidence supports the existence of personality changes in recipients of organ transplantation. Documented cases show changes in transplant recipient’s preferences, emotions, temperament, memory, and identity, with both negative and positive consequences ranging from rejection of the organ and death to a complete makeover of the person’s personality.
- Dr. Larry Dossey, former chief of staff at the Medical City Dallas Hospital and editor of EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Health, offers a different explanation than the cellular memory hypothesis: it may be a matter of consciousness, not tissue.
- It’s not just brain and nerve cells that retain memory. There may be six possible mechanisms by which memories can be stored: epigenetic memory, DNA memory, RNA memory, protein memory, intracardiac neurological memory, and energetic memory.
- This has many implications for the future of life science. “The life span, journeys, and features of each person’s mind and spirit will finally be addressed by humans when we have better ways to study them,” Dr. Yuhong Dong said.
A 48-year-old New Englander named Claire Sylvia was dumbfounded when she suddenly developed a taste for junk food, beer, chicken nuggets, and motorcycles after her heart-lung transplant. This was not the same Claire her family and friends knew.
In Sylvia’s best-selling memoir, “Change of Heart,” she described her personal transformational experience and those of fellow donor recipients who paradoxically take on the personality traits of their donors. When Sylvia sought out the family of her donor, she learned that every new trait she had acquired came from the teenage boy who gave her a new heart and lungs.
Sylvia’s story was so remarkable it has become one of the most known transplant stories in the fields of both medical and energetic science.
Commenting on her book, author of “Quantum Healing” Dr. Deepak Chopra said, “This is a story that must be told and heard…a fascinating example of how cellular memory can outlive physical death.”
The story, and many like it, affirm the idea that there’s more to mind and body than molecules and matter. When we examine stories like Sylvia’s, we have one more layer of thought to examine and study.
The World Health Organization reported 5,400 heart transplants worldwide in 2008. In the United States 3,408 transplants were performed in 2018 and 73,510 people have received heart transplants in the United States in the last three decades. Those who study cell memory phenomena say those statistics indicate a large number of individuals have the potential to experience personality changes following heart transplantation surgery.
“Modern medicine has excellent understanding of the cellular structure and molecular level knowledge of human bodies,” said Dr. Yuhong Dong, infectious disease doctor and Swiss biotech company co-founder. “However, it is not the complete picture of the human body. Other than molecular structure, the human body has far more minuscule structure and particles which belong to the scope of ‘mind’ or ‘spirituality.’ Traditional Chinese medicine has elucidated that each organ of the human body—heart, kidney, liver, spleen, lung—has mind or spiritual level particles, but they are invisible to our human eyes. Cellular memory is possible and significant, and our body, mind, and spirit are as a whole.”
In 2009, Harvard Medical School defined biological cellular memories as “a sustained cellular response to a transient stimulus” in the brain. In order to form memories, the brain must wire an experience into neurons so the neurons can be reactivated and recalled. However, the current theory of cellular memory extends the theory that memories, as well as personality traits, are not just stored in the brain.
Due to insight into the field of science, we now know cellular memories may also be stored in major organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, or kidneys.
In addition to organs, we also have the science of energy and consciousness entering the discussion. We wonder how much of the memories are contained in the human body and mind, and how much is stored in the immeasurable matter known as “spirit.”
In Sylvia’s case, her donor was an 18-year-old boy who died in a motorcycle accident. He was known to have loved those particular foods so much that a container of chicken nuggets was removed from his jacket after the fatal crash. As soon as Sylvia could recover from the transplant, she drove herself to KFC to buy herself her newest love: chicken nuggets. Before the surgery, the former professional dancer was a health nut, so where could this new preference have come from, if not from her donor?
We first heard about Sylvia’s story in Bruce Lipton, PhD’s iconic book, “The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter, & Miracles,” when Lipton cited her story as supporting evidence for his belief that an individual’s broadcast is still present after death. Lipton believed psychological and behavioral memory make sense if we realize that the transplanted organs still bear the original identity receptors of the donor. The cells download the same environmental information, and therefore become “immortal.” Yet despite being enamored by the infinite potential of the cellular membrane, Lipton felt cell memory can only be taken so far.
As one of the first cell memory philosophers, he wrote, “You know I have immense respect for the intelligence of single cells, but I have to draw a line here. Yes, cells can ‘remember’ that they are muscle cells or liver cells, but there is a limit to their intelligence. I do not believe cells are physically endowed with perception mechanisms that can distinguish and remember a taste for chicken nuggets!”
Yet, do we need to draw a line? What if the cell has such capabilities? And what if those capabilities leap beyond the cell and become more of an energy that follows a person?
Much has happened in the field of energetic science since Lipton’s book was published in 2005. Time after time, bizarre and strangely specific personality changes have occurred and have been documented after people receive a new heart, liver, or kidney.
How can one explain, post transplantation, the curious account of a die-hard carnivore now vomiting at the sight of meat, a lesbian suddenly only finding men attractive, and a 9-year-old who used to adore swimming in the family lake now deathly afraid of water—after we learn his heart transplant donor, a dear 3-year-old, died from drowning?
Empirical Evidence of Personality Changes in Organ Transplant Recipients
Though the practice of human to human heart organ transplant technology has been available since 1967, the earliest reported cases of personality changes were analyzed in 1988 by Paul Pearsall, Ph.D, nursing professor from the University of Hawaii; Gary Schwartz, Ph.D, professor of psychology, medicine, neurology, and psychiatry at the University of Arizona; and Linda Russek, Ph.D, assistant clinical professor of the University of Arizona.
As lead researcher, Pearsall had been collecting sporadic cases of cellular memory phenomenon throughout his professional career. He felt the need to author a report that provided both theoretical and empirical justification for conducting a controlled, comprehensive study. Until then, the stories were just coincidences and side conversations overheard in the doctor’s office. Pearsall felt the need to document these happenings.
Of the 74 transplant cases the authors chronicled and recorded, 23 were heart transplants. Pearsall observed heart transplant recipients seemed to be the most susceptible to personality changes. After interviewing the donor’s families and gathering information from the recipients and their families, the authors observed two to five parallels per case.
Parallels included changes in food, music, art, sexual, recreational, and career preferences, as well as specific perceptions of names and sensory experiences related to the donors.
In 2019, Mitchell Liester, MD, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, offered an in-depth analysis of metadata and decades of stories. His paper, “Personality Changes Following Heart Transplantation: The Role of Cellular Memory,” published in Medical Hypotheses, categorized personal accounts of donors and the changes they experienced. Many of the cases were from Pearsall’s interviews.
Liester found that the large body of empirical evidence of personality changes in organ transplant recipients included the same changes in preferences and memories from the donor’s life that Pearsall, Schwartz, and Russek discovered and found interesting. In addition, Liester added further analysis of alterations in emotions and temperament and modifications of identity.
Though the burden of proof is not easy to come by, we now have much more theory and hypotheses on cellular memory. Similar to near-death experiences, most cellular memory cases go unheard, as patients fear being discredited. Those courageous enough to come forward usually have no motivation other than to find support.
Yet recipients are not just manifesting these changes in their minds. As explored by Liester, transferring information by heart transplantation can indeed alter the recipient’s preferences, emotions, temperament, memory, and identity, with both negative and positive consequences. Those changes can range in scope from complete makeover of the person’s personality to a rejection of the organ and death. For this reason, he believes more study of these enigmatic cases is necessary to further understand the cellular memory phenomenon.
Many organ recipients in Liester’s studied cases began to like things they never liked before. They also began to do things they had never done before.
Changes in Musical Preferences
- In some cases, the change in preference was of a musical kind. For example, a 45-year-old who received the heart of a 17-year-old boy who used to put on earphones and blare loud music. Now, the 45-year-old picked up the same habit, something he said he would never think to do before the surgery.
- Another case is an 18-year-old girl who received a heart from an 18-year-old male musician who played the guitar and died in a car accident. She could never play music before, but now all she wanted in life was to learn to play the guitar. “I felt it in my heart,” she said. “My heart had to play.”
- “I used to hate classical music, but now I love it,” said a 47-year-old white, male foundry worker who received the heart of a 17-year-old black man killed in a drive-by-shooting. He assumed his newfound love of classical music could not have come from his donor due to his preconceptions of the young man. Yet unbeknownst to him, his donor was a talented musician who loved classical music more than anything. The donor’s mother said, “Our son was walking to violin class when he was hit…He died right there on the street hugging his violin case.”
Changes in Food Preferences
Liester learned food preferences could change after transplantation.
- For instance, a 29-year-old woman who called herself “McDonald’s biggest money maker” would vomit any time she ate meat after her transplant from a 19-year-old vegetarian donor. She said, “When I even smell it, my heart starts to race.”
- Another example comes from a 47-year-old man who, post-transplant, began feeling nauseated after eating. “I often feel nauseated and that it would help if I could throw up,” he reported. His donor was a 14-year-old gymnast with bulimic tendencies, who would skip meals and purge after she ate.
Changes in Sexual Preference
- After receiving their new heart, several recipients also described uncanny changes in sexual preference, completely reversing their gender preference. They now preferred the same preference as their donor.
Miscellaneous Preference Changes and Aversions
Liester described many cases where transplant recipients changed their preference for art and colors while some developed new fears.
- For instance, a 25-year-old male graduate student who would never think to go to a museum suddenly became an art fanatic after he received the heart of a 24-year-old female landscape artist. His girlfriend described her changed guy: “Now he goes to museums every week. Sometimes he stands for minutes and looks at a painting without talking. He loves landscapes and just stares. Sometimes I just leave him there and come back later,” she said.
- A 48-year-old female dancer whose donor was an 18-year-old man killed in a motorcycle accident changed her favorite colors from hot colors like red, pink, and gold to cool colors like blue and forest green. “Most men stay away from hot colors, as I now do,” she said.
- A 9-year-old boy who received the heart of a 3-year-old girl who drowned in the family pool developed an aversion to water following his transplant, despite knowing nothing about her death. His mother said they lived on a lake where he loved to swim in the water. After the transplant, he would not even set foot in the backyard because of its proximity to the lake. The mom said, “He keeps closing and locking the back door walls. He says he’s afraid of the water and doesn’t know why.”
Changes in Emotions and Temperament
Liester found that recipients may experience two types of emotional changes after heart transplantation: emotions they identify as originating from the donor or an adjustment in temperament.
- For example, the young boy did not know his donor was a 3-year-old girl who drowned at her mother’s boyfriend’s house under a babysitter’s care. He knew nothing about her. But the girl led a troubled life that included dealing with her parents’ traumatic divorce and further neglect by her father. After the boy’s transplant, he described the emotions of his donor as if she were sitting right there with him, “She seems very sad. She is very afraid. I tell her it’s okay, but she’s very afraid. She says she wishes that parents wouldn’t ‘throw away their children.’ I don’t know why she would say that.”
- Other recipients describe changes in overall temperament after receiving their new hearts. One person stated, “The new heart has changed me… the person whose heart I got was a calm person, not hectic, and his feelings have been passed on to me now.”
Changes in Identity
Liester said personal identity changes are the most studied in the field of cellular memory after transplantation.
- One 19-year-old recipient who received the heart of another woman commented, “I think of her as my sister. I think we must have been sisters in a former life. I only know my donor was a girl my age, but it’s more than that. I talk to her at night or when I’m sad. I feel her answering me. I can feel it in my chest. I put my left hand there and press it with my right. It’s like I can connect with her.”
- In another account, a 5-year-old boy who was not told the age or name of his donor, knew the name of his donor and all the details of his death.
Other recipients have been able to describe their donors and their deaths as well. Some reenact the moment of death in their dreams. But how could they know these details? Is the organ storing all that information about the details of the donors and their life experiences? Or is it an energy that’s carrying the memory?
“It’s fascinating, isn’t it?” said Dr. Dong. “There is a theory in traditional Chinese culture of Taoism that the human body is a universe. If it is a universe, each cell or organ may be a mini-universe. Then, there’s another theory in the Buddhist tradition from Shakyamuni, that there are 3,000 worlds in one grain of sand. If that is true, then we can understand why an organ can store so much information about an individual human being.”
Memories From the Donor’s Life
Perhaps the largest dive into the metaphysical or telesomatic realm is when recipients describe “memories” from the donor’s lives, exchanging perceptions and physical symptoms remotely, beyond the reach of the senses.
Liester said these exchanges can happen during waking consciousness or sleep, and include sensory experiences related to the donor. Oftentimes, and in common with near death experiences, these phenomena happen to people who described themselves as once-skeptics who found it hard to deny the psychic nature of their personal experience.
- One recipient received memories from her donor right after an unusual, but distinctive taste came to her mouth. She said she’d be cleaning the house or sitting around reading, and then start thinking about her donor’s life—about who she was and how she lived.
- In addition to taste-triggered memory, some recipients have described tactile-triggered memories. One 29-year-old woman could feel the impact of a car hitting her chest, as her donor was a 19-year-old killed in a car accident. The woman told her doctor about the recurring sensation, but the doctor said she was just fine.
- In a 2008 article titled, “Transplants, Cellular Memory, and Reincarnation,” Dr. Larry Dossey, former chief of staff at the Medical City Dallas Hospital and editor of EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Health, recounts the 1995 case of Sonny Graham, a 69-year-old resident golf tournament director from Georgia who received a heart transplant from a 33-year-old man who killed himself. After writing letters of gratitude to the donor’s family, Graham met the donor’s widow, fell in love, and married her. Then, 12-years after the transplant, he shot himself, dying in the same way his donor did.
Dr. Dossey wondered if memories and personality traits would be transferred from one individual to another without organ transfer. If the answer was yes, he wrote, this would suggest that the transfer of an organ may not be required in the cellular memory cases we know about and a more fundamental process is at work.
He said, “I suggest that the consciousness of a donor is fundamentally united with the consciousness of a recipient via nonlocal mind, and that it is this connection that makes possible informational exchanges between the two individuals, which take the form of post transplant phenomena.”
Cellular Memory: Brains and Nerves Are Not the Final Word on Memory
In a recent Scientific American article written by award-winning writer Jennifer Frazer, there is evidence that cells can “remember” much more than we give them credit for, citing mid-century examples of Pavlov’s dogs and current experiments with slime molds that learn to anticipate memories.
“I think it’s time for us to throw preconceived notions of what cells are capable of out the window, rather than [the] unexpected experimental results,” Frazer wrote, stating that much cell memory science is “still pretty out there, evidence wise.” However, she said, biologists are learning the staggering complexity of cells, such as extrachromosomal DNA loops and the dark matter in DNA, and are “chattering excitedly from a ship at sea about the nature of the newly discovered continent.”
Based on similarities between the brain and heart, Liester said the complex system of neurons in the heart has often been referred to as the “heart brain.”
“The intracardiac nervous system has been found to remodel itself after cardiac transplantation,” Liester wrote, “a process known as neuroplasticity.” “Neuroplasticity is one of the fundamental characteristics of the cerebral brain that is believed to be involved in the formation, storage, and retrieval of memories. Thus, it is possible that memories are stored within the intracardiac nervous system and are transferred to the recipient at the time of transplantation.”
After analyzing dozens of cases of patients who reported personality changes after heart transplants, Liester discussed psychosocial problems and psychiatric distress following organ transplant surgeries. Some are rejected completely and fatally. Liester wondered if the recipient’s experience of their donor’s personality traits influences the likelihood of rejection. And in consideration of current medical and legal definitions of death, if the donor’s heart possesses personality traits such as preferences, emotions, and memories, should the donor even be considered dead if their heart continues to sense and respond to the environment?
Further, he asked, “Are these changes temporary or permanent?” and “Can changes occur despite recipients knowing nothing about their donor?” And why doesn’t the phenomenon of personality transfer happen with other procedures that utilize another person’s body such as a blood transfusion? Why is it just people with major organ transplants who report such occurrences?
Dr. Liester hypothesized that memories from the donor’s life are stored in the cells of the donated heart, which are “remembered” by the recipient after surgery.
His theory includes epigenetic changes that occur during DNA methylation, histone modification, and the production of miRNAs in a process that can either enhance or suppress the production of a gene’s product, in turn, creating an epigenetic code that determines transcription and encoded information that can be stored and retrieved over time.
“The existence of epigenetic memory in no way negates the existence of neuronal memory,” he stated, “Rather, epigenetic memory and neuronal memory serve as unique pathways, demonstrating that multiple mechanism[s] can be utilized to encode, store, and retrieve information.”
Liester was unable to find research to back his hypothesis that DNA may be transferred from a donor’s heart to a recipient’s body—yet he found it “plausible that horizontal gene transfer via exosomes could provide a mechanism for the transfer of information/memories from donor to recipient,” citing the example of encoding into DNA by researcher Nick Goldman of the European Bioinformatics Institute, who stored all of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets in DNA, and his synthetic double helix didn’t miss a single line.
RNA might be more easily explained, he found, by looking at a recent study that trained sea mollusks to respond to an electric shock to their tails. After shocking the trained animals repeatedly, researchers removed RNA from the trained animals and injected it into naive animals. Leister wrote, “The naive animals responded as if they had been trained to respond to the electric shock,” demonstrating heart transplant recipients may be capable of receiving long-term memory from their donors by the transfer of RNA in exosomes produced by the donor’s cardiac cells.
Looking at protein memory, Leister found a 2001 paper published in the Journal of Neuroscience Research that hypothesized long-term memories could be stored in nerve cells in the form of novel proteins produced from recombinant DNA.
He wrote, “Although their hypothesis focused on the presence of proteins in cerebral neurons, it is possible that other neurons, such as cardiac neurons, might also contain novel proteins that store memories.” Liester would like to see further studies that investigate the role of prions and other proteins with prion-like domains in the formation and storage of long-term memory, “as well as the possible transfer of such memories via exome encapsulated proteins between donor and recipient following heart transplantation.”
“The above hypotheses do explain cellular memory, but none of them have a direct effect influencing our brain and spirit,” Dong said. “I think the potential for this field lies in the intracardiac nervous system and the electromagnetic energy generated by the heart.”
Nonlocal Mind and Matter of Consciousness: Should Skeptics Consider Energy Transfer?
The integration of the donor’s spirit or energy into the recipient’s spirit or energy has been indicated by the comments of the mother of a 16-month-old boy named Jerry, who could feel the energy of her son in Carter, the boy who received Jerry’s organ. The mother said, “I could feel my son. I mean I could feel him, not just symbolically. He was there, I felt his energy.”
Dossey offered a different explanation than the cellular memory hypothesis. He theorized that the primary link between donor and recipient may be a matter of consciousness, not tissue. He considered that two mechanisms might be involved, both cellular memory and donor-recipient informational exchanges occurring via nonlocal mind.
“Most of us are reluctant to honor our nonlocal connections with others,” Dossey wrote. “We prefer to hang on the idea that we are solitary individuals who are isolated physically and mentally from everyone else, because this view is affirmed by culture and common sense. Throughout history, however, humans have discovered a great many ways of realizing their mental connections with others. Sometimes physical objects serve this purpose.
“For example, a ring, locket, poem, or photos can help lovers sense their unity. They understand that the physical object doesn’t contain the actual memories and thoughts they have of each other. It is a symbol that triggers associations in the consciousness of the persons involved. A part of the body—a donated heart, lung, or kidney—might function in a similar way through nonlocal consciousness.”
Dossey said skeptics and disbelievers of cellular memory abound within medicine. “Most scientists believe psychological experience is stored in the brain,” he wrote. “This is just not something the medical transplant world accepts. They will chalk up changes in taste and dietary preferences to medications and their side effects. Others will say these changes are just coincidence.” He added, “Some psychologists say that the best explanation for changed tastes and new behaviors is wish fulfillment, self-fulfilling prophecy, and suggestion, when recipients suspect or actually learn the identities and personalities of their donors.”
To this point, Dossey quotes Albert Einstein: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
Dossey said critics reject post-transplant phenomena because they cannot be explained. He said, “One of the reasons post-transplant phenomena have such a difficult time gaining traction in the medical-scientific community is the assumption that these happenings violate the laws of nature and therefore cannot possibly be valid. Most skeptics who hold this point of view, I regret to say, are simply not well informed about developments in experimental parapsychology and the theory development in this field.”
“Following the curious dogma that what we don’t understand can’t exist, mainstream science has dismissed psychic phenomena as delusions or hoaxes simply because they’re rarer than sleep, dreams, memory, growth, pain, or consciousness, which are all inexplicable in traditional terms but are too common to be denied.”
Sadly, Dossey commented, “The average person today is about as naive as was the average person in the Middle Ages. In the Middle Ages people believed in the authority of their religion, no matter what. Today, we believe in the authority of our science, no matter what.”
Taking a detailed look into post-transplant experiences such as Claire Sylvia’s, he suspects these cases are not only valid, but more common than we think.
“Hopefully, her case will continue to encourage organ recipients to go public with their experiences, as people did with near-death experiences,” he said, and added, “These cases are a reminder that we are united in deep ways—that consciousness is one, at heart. Pun intended.”
Pearsall suggested personality changes following heart transplantation may result from changes in the energy of the heart. Quoting Pearsall, Liester wrote, “energy and information are the same thing. Everything that exists has energy, energy is full of information, and stored info-energy is what makes up cellular memories.”
“Replacing one person’s heart with the heart of another changes the recipient’s electromagnetic field,” Liester wrote, adding that “One type of energy is electromagnetic energy and one source of electromagnetic energy is the heart.” His paper stated the heart produces an amplitude 60 times greater than the amplitude of the brain’s electromagnetic field, giving it the largest energy field of the body.
Liester wondered if it’s possible that the body contains mechanisms for reading this electromagnetic field, “similar to how ‘readers’ analyze epigenetic changes and then modify gene expression.” He philosophized that, “intuitive knowledge transcends rational knowledge, allowing access to information from a source other than the brain.”
He added, “Although this type of knowledge is often ignored by contemporary Western science, it has been valued and relied upon by other cultures for thousands of years.”
“Biophysicists have discovered that the human body can spontaneously emit electrons and photons, producing a glow invisible to the naked eye,” Dong said, referring to technology developed in 1939 called Kirlian photography that managed to capture the electrons and photons emitted by the human body on film to prove their mysterious existence.
Dong said it’s possible for the body to read the electromagnetic field and analyze the information contained in the EMG field. Repeated experiments by Nobel Prize laureate Professor Luc Montagnier demonstrated the potential regenerative benefits of producing low intensity electromagnetic field resonances. Some of his energy field repair theories are being used to treat COVID jab-induced spike injuries. To demonstrate the power of the electromagnetic field, Montagnier’s experiment found DNA could be produced in a pure water tube adjacent to another water tube containing DNA.
She explained how Montagnier’s experiments further the explanation of energy transfer theory in organ transplantation. Dong said, “If the donor organ’s energetic field is memorized and read by the recipient, then that information contained in the organ can be retrieved by the recipient, so it can be merged into the recipient’s spiritual ‘molecules’ or ‘particles.’”
She further clarified, “If the invisible particles and/or electromagnetic energy field are in these transplanted organs, they can be integrated or merged into the invisible particles of the recipient, and the recipient’s personality may be changed as well.”
Insights of Cellular Memory and Implications for Future Life Science
Considering the many ways cellular memory may be transferred, the field of organ transplantation may experience a paradigm shift.
“What’s more important,” said Dong, “is perhaps the invisible energy and spirit in a form of invisible electromagnetic field or invisible microscropic substance. For example, Kirlian photography can show a person’s energetic or electromagnetic field.”
According to Liester and others in the field of cellular memory, there is much more to learn. Recognizing energy or invisible particles that cannot be seen by the human eye can induce many philosophical questions including, as Liester and other researchers have asked:
- Can the piece of one person’s soul or spiritual molecule pass to another person’s body?
- And if energy or invisible particles continue to exist even when the body dies, what is the real definition and concept of death?
Dong believes that in order to answer these questions, we have to take another look at the preconceived notions derived from contemporary science.
“What people have told us about acquiring traits from their donors helps us understand the interconnections of body, mind, and spirit,” she said. “Near death experiences can also give us a glimpse into the unknown and help us think about the meaning of our lives.”
“The body has a lifespan. The mind and spirit seem to have their own lifespans as well. The physical body’s death does not necessarily mean the mind and spiritual body will die at the same time.”
“The life span, journeys, and features of each person’s mind and spirit will be finally addressed by humans when we have better ways of studying them,” Dong added. “Before we find the ultimate answer, at least we can learn that spirit, soul, and emotions are materials stored in our body that can be transferred to another person, from organs or by reincarnations.”
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