Changes in heart transplant recipients that parallel the personalities of their donors

Paul Pearsall, Gary E.R. Schwartz, Linda G.S. Russek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Context: It is generally assumed that learning is restricted to neural and immune systems. However, the systemic memory hypothesis predicts that all dynamical systems that contain recurrent feedback loops store information and energy to various degrees. Sensitive transplant patients may evidence personal changes that parallel the history of their donors. Objective: To evaluate whether changes following heart transplant surgery parallel the history of the donors. Design: Open-ended interviews with volunteer (1) transplant recipients, (2) recipient families or friends, and (3) donor families or friends. Setting: Hospitals in various parts of the country. Patients: Ten recipients (7 males, 3 females; 7 months to 56 years old), received heart (or heart-lung) transplants (5 males, 5 females; 16 months to 34 years old). Main Outcome Measures: Transcripts of audio taped interviews quoted verbatim. Results: Two to 5 parallels per case were observed between changes following surgery and the histories of the donors. Parallels included changes in food, music, art, sexual, recreational, and career preferences, as well as specific instances of perceptions of names and sensory experiences related to the donors (e.g., one donor was killed by a gun shot to the face; the recipient had dreams of seeing hot flashes of light in his face). Conclusion: The incidence of recipient awareness of personal changes in cardiac transplant patients is unknown. The effects of the immunosuppressant drugs, stress of the surgery, and statistical coincidence are likely insufficient to explain the findings. The plausibility of cellular memory, possibly systemic memory, is suggested. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-72
Number of pages8
JournalIntegrative Medicine
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2000


  • Alternative medicine
  • Cellular memory
  • Energy medicine
  • Heart transplant
  • Personality change
  • Systemic memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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