This interview was originally published in the Spring 2020 issue of KinesioGeek Magazine.Click here to watch the full interview on YouTube:
By Alexis Costello
Marco Rado is an internationally renowned speaker and instructor for applied physiology as well as the creator of many of his own workshops. Having looked into his work regarding neurocardiology in the past, I knew that he was the perfect person to talk to about a new and different way of approaching heart health. Here we are considering it in the context of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as well as emotionally and electrically.
A: I wanted to take a little time to talk with you about the neurocardiology workshop and a new way for looking at the heart. It says in the description for the class that the heart is a ‘complete brain’. What do you mean by that?
M: Since the mid-90’s there are a couple of American researchers who have been studying the heart intrinsic nervous system. They found that the heart has a population of neurons that stay in the heart. They are not just connecting to the autonomic nervous system but they stay as a local circuit that can work to memorize and process information – to make functional decisions that are completely independent from the brain. It’s not by chance that the very first organ that was transplanted back in the sixties was the heart; it’s because it’s an organ that can work perfectly and completely without interference from the brain. If you think about a transplant, it can take months for the neurological connections to reconnect – if the brain was necessary for heart function, than it would not be possible to transplant the heart.
A: So when you’re saying that it’s a complete circuit and that is makes decisions – in your experience then, does the heart have memory and is it holding a certain amount of information to compare new information with?
M: Yes, exactly. I think the main evidence for understanding the heart as a brain are the anomalies that happen after heart transplants. I think it was in 1999 or 2000 at Tucson at the Applied Physiology annual meeting; one of the speakers was Gary Schwartz who was a professor at the University of Arizona and a world expert on these anomalies. With the heart, these anomalies are much more frequent than with other organs; one person out of every three transplants. With these transplants, the receiver is not just receiving an organ but may begin to develop the tastes and preferences of the giver. And this is absolutely against what we can understand from the neuroscience point of view because there should be no reason for these effects but there are huge effects and huge changes as if in the heart there is something that influences the nervous system, the memory, tastes and habits of people.
A: I’ve read some of that before in his book ‘The Living Energy Universe’; there are some quotes from that we use in SIPS 4 in talking about the heart, the heart chakra and the associated layer of the auric field because it does seem like there’s a lot of information processed by the heart. And yes, that affects the rest of the body, but also how that affects the energetic field that I’m creating as I walk into a room – the field that people are picking up and what that interference pattern looks like. It’s interesting stuff!
M: Oh definitely. From my point of view, I think that we have at least three brains and they must work together to accomplish the higher cognitive functions. I would describe the cranial brain as the consciousness, the heart-brain is the subconscious and the gut-brain is the unconscious. All three layers have to work together to work properly. I speak often with Charles Krebs and I have mentioned to him that if we want to work with learning disabilities or higher cognitive function, we need to focus not only on the cranial brain, but also on these other two brains. Because they work in parallel and disfunction or symptoms can be the result of any of these brains.
A: Allopathic medicine has really begun to pay more attention to the gut-brain in the past few years – suddenly the idea that we need a healthy microbiome to have a healthy immune system or that a lot of depression and anxiety is a result of gut malfunction doesn’t seem so strange. What do you think? Are they going to start paying attention to the heart-brain too? Is that already happening?
M: I’m an expert in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and when I teach, I always refer to Chinese medicine. If we look at this from the perspective of TCM then we associate the microbiome or the gut-brain with the entire intestine – not only the large intestine, but also the small intestine. TCM tells us that the organ paired with the small intestine is the heart. TCM is telling us that there is a tight functional relationship between the heart and small intestine. The heart is a small neurological center while the small intestine is a huge one. The guts contain the second highest number of neurons in the body, they have even more than the spinal cord. So the neurological aspect of the small intestine is huge, because if you think about it, the entire small intestine is surrounded by two layers of neurons and it’s seven or eight meters long. This creates a huge neurological circuit, and it’s connected to the heart, at least from the perspective of TCM. So I think that this should be taken into account, and that in the future there will be a very different way of thinking about and understanding human physiology. Even if that is already happening, I think that one of the best ways to scientifically prove a person’s overall health is through heart rate variability. It’s used to define whether a person is in a healthy state and it’s not some future thing, it’s something we have now.
A: The 5 Spirits are something that I have been researching for my own Elementals class recently. In your opinion, how do these relate to the heart?
M: Kinesiology has a very different understanding of the emotional aspects than TCM. In kinesiology we have lists of emotions that connect to each organ individually. TCM shows us that each organ houses a different spirit and each spirit looks different and has a different function. There is a metaphor in TCM which explains that just as water has three forms, solid (ice), dynamic (liquid), and subtle (steam), so too can the body’s energy manifest. The body has the denser Jing energy, the dynamic chi which flows through the 12 meridians, and then the more supple, sheng. The 5 Spirits are all manifestations of the sheng energy, which is called the “sheng of the heart” and one of the heart’s functions is to coordinate and regulate the sheng and the 5 Spirits. Nothing in TCM is linear, nothing is simple. Sheng is at the same time, the sheng of all other organs and the sheng of the heart – each organ has its own, but they are all under the control of the heart.
A: Let’s talk about the role of the heart in emotional wellbeing – there are certain emotions that are attributed to the heart, that’s pretty traditional, but how do you feel emotions affect the physiology and nervous system of the heart?
M: In TCM all the different senses of the body are under the control of the heart. Usually when we teach the 5-elements, we say that each organ controls a different sense organ; the Water element controls hearing, the Wood element controls sight; but at a deeper level all the senses are controlled by the heart, because to understand what you are hearing or looking at you need the sheng of the heart. There is a very tight relationship between emotions and feelings and we are only able to describe an emotion if we involve the body. We are not able to perceive an emotion mentally; we are only able to perceive it physically and the physical perception of the body is under the control of the heart. The brain is only the final conscious perception or expression of that emotion, all the subconscious feelings related to the emotions are absolutely related to the heart. This is why in my workshop we work a lot balancing the senses, because if we balance the senses then we can balance the emotions. There is a sentence that I use a lot in my classes: ‘Do you want to change the world? Change your eyes.’ Each time you change your perception you change reality – our reality is only the result of our perception. So the heart is the process and structure that is able to finalize into an emotion, so this is why it is so important.
A: I like that: ‘To change your perception, change your eyes!’ Are there any big misconceptions about the heart that you would love the opportunity to clear up for people?
M: The heart can be influenced by any trauma so everyone can have a misperception because of what happened in the past. If we look from a strict neurological point of view, all the senses pass through one area, the thalamus, and it is this center that decides what will reach the cortex and what will not. Only a tiny percentage of all our feelings and perceptions will become conscious. So what makes the thalamus decide ‘this will become conscious and this not?’ It’s the experiences of the past. Often we are not perceiving today’s reality, we are perceiving the past. This is why it is so important to clear the traumas and experiences, because then we can react to our current reality, not just reacting to past experiences.
A: So you’re saying the heart is influencing the thalamus and the reticular activating system to determine what becomes conscious?
M: Yes, so the primary pathway between the heart and the brain is the vagus nerve and almost 85% of the communication goes from the heart to the brain – it’s the heart that speaks much more to the brain than the brain speaks to the heart.
A: Are there any resources (other than your class of course!) that you would suggest for those who are interested in learning more about this?
M: I began to be interested in these alternative aspects of the heat reading the book from James Oschman, ‘Energy Medicine, The Scientific Basis’. There’s also a huge amount of information from the HeartMath Institute in California because they are the ones that have performed all the main experiments and have made these concepts popular. They have produced two books, ‘The Coherent Heart’ and the other is ‘The Energetic Heart – Biomagnetic reactions in and between people’. They are both ebooks and you can find them on the HeartMath website.
A: Anything else you want to tell us about the neurocardiology workshop coming up?
M: I’m coming to Canada for the first time to teach this workshop – its one of my favourite classes. And if we are able to make it to Canada and not be stopped by this virus, it will be the fifth continent where I have taught! It’s an interesting class because it gives a completely different point of view of how the body works, but it also gives a different perspective of how we should work as kinesiologists. One of the things that fascinated me when I was reading James Oschman’s book was the huge electromagnetic field the heart produces. These fields interact between people and I think this is one of the most important components of what we do in kinesiology sessions; it’s not just what we are performing physically, but it is the attitude of the therapist that can highly influence the result of what we do. It’s not only being precise in testing or stimulating the reflexes, it’s all the information that is stored in the energy field of the kinesiologist and the client that interact together. The shape of the heart’s magnetic field is exactly the same shape as the earth’s. In physics we know that structures that have the same shape are resonant, so we are not only resonant with our clients but with the entire energy field of the earth. It’s the primary antennae of communication that we have with other people. When we talk about chakras we often refer to the seventh chakra as the main antennae to connect with higher sources, while the heart chakra is the primary antennae to connect with the same level, to interact with others. It’s an interesting topic and TCM has described it perfectly and given us the tools to work on this heart energy field and it’s not by chance that the heart is the Emperor of the meridians and the heart organ is the only organ that has two meridians – the heart and the pericardium. The class is a blend of Western modern information and a lot of physics, with TCM and energetics. I think that people like it.