An Overview of Research Conducted by the HeartMath Institute
The first biomagnetic signal was demonstrated in 1863 by Gerhard Baule and Richard McFee in a magnetocardiogram (MCG) that used magnetic induction coils to detect fields generated by the human heart. A remarkable increase in the sensitivity of biomagnetic measurements has since been achieved with the introduction of the superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) in the early 1970s. The ECG and MCG signals have since been shown to closely parallel one another.
In this section, we discuss how the magnetic fields produced by the heart are involved in energetic communication, which we also refer to as cardioelectromagnetic communication. The heart is the most powerful source of electromagnetic energy in the human body, producing the largest rhythmic electromagnetic field of any of the body’s organs. The heart’s electrical field is about 60 times greater in amplitude than the electrical activity generated by the brain. This field, measured in the form of an electrocardiogram (ECG), can be detected anywhere on the surface of the body. Furthermore, the magnetic field produced by the heart is more than 100 times greater in strength than the field generated by the brain and can be detected, in all directions, using SQUID-based magnetometers.
The heart’s magnetic field, which is the strongest rhythmic field produced by the human body, not only envelops every cell of the body, but also extends out in all directions into the space around us. The heart’s magnetic field can be measured several feet away from the body by sensitive magnetometers. Research conducted at HMI suggests the heart’s field is an important carrier of information.
BIOLOGICAL ENCODING INFORMATION
Every cell in our bodies is bathed in an external and internal environment of fluctuating invisible magnetic forces. It has become increasingly apparent that fluctuations in magnetic fields can affect virtually every circuit in biological systems to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the particular biological system and the properties of the magnetic fluctuations. One of the primary ways that signals and messages are encoded and transmitted in physiological systems is in the language of patterns. In the nervous system it is well established that information is encoded in the time intervals between action potentials, or patterns of electrical activity. This also applies to humoral communications in which biologically relevant information also is encoded in the time interval between hormonal pulses. As the heart secretes a number of different hormones with each contraction, there is a hormonal pulse pattern that correlates with heart rhythms. In addition to the encoding of information in the space between nerve impulses and in the intervals between hormonal pulses, it is likely that information also is encoded in the interbeat intervals of the pressure and electromagnetic waves produced by the heart. This supports Pribram’s proposal discussed earlier that low-frequency oscillations generated by the heart and body in the form of afferent neural, hormonal and electrical patterns are the carriers of emotional information and the higher frequency oscillations found in the EEG reflect the conscious perception and labeling of feelings and emotions. We have proposed that these same rhythmic patterns also can transmit emotional information via the electromagnetic field into the environment, which can be detected by others and processed in the same manner as internally generated signals.
A useful technique for detecting synchronized activity between systems in biological systems and investigating a number of bioelectromagnetic phenomena is signal averaging. This is accomplished by superimposing any number of equal-length epochs, each of which contains a repeating periodic signal. This emphasizes and distinguishes any signal that is time-locked to the periodic signal while eliminating variations that are not time-locked to the periodic signal. This procedure is commonly used to detect and record cerebral cortical responses to sensory stimulation. When signal averaging is used to detect activity in the EEG that is time-locked to the ECG, the resultant waveform is called the heartbeat-evoked potential.
The heart generates a pressure wave that travels rapidly throughout the arteries, much faster than the actual flow of blood that we feel as our pulse. These pressure waves force the blood cells through the capillaries to provide oxygen and nutrients to cells and expand the arteries, causing them to generate a relatively large electrical voltage. These pressure waves also apply pressure to the cells in a rhythmic fashion that can cause some of their proteins to generate an electrical current in response to this "squeeze." Experiments conducted in laboratory have shown that a change in the brain’s electrical activity can be seen when the blood-pressure wave reaches the brain around 240 milliseconds after systole.