Organ transplant recipients have often reported there have been changes in their taste, ideas and even personality after they receive another person’s organs. Many scientists dismiss this thought as simply a way for the recipient to psychologically become closer to their donor, but there are many others who can’t dismiss the volume of claims that there are strong connections between donors and recipients. If this is so, does that mean memory cells throughout our bodies store memories, not just the brain?
Amy Tippins, from Atlanta, Georgia, was diagnosed with a rare liver disease at 17. A donor was found, and Amy was able to get a complete liver transplant. After the operation Amy said, “I had an intense craving for hamburgers.” She said she had never liked hamburgers before. She also noted changes in her personality. Instead of trying to please everyone, as she once did, she became more of a protector. “Friends joked,” said Amy, “no one will mess with you if Tippins is around!”
Amy contacted the transplant commission and asked to get in touch with the family of the donor. She found out from them that her donor was a U.S. Marshall, and he loved hamburgers. He had devoted his life to protecting people. She felt her donor had infused some of his personality into her via his liver.
Is it just a coincidence? According to Michael Shermer, Ph.D., author of The Believing Brain, “These (anti-rejection) drugs can cause nutrient deficiencies, which create intense cravings for a specific food that contains that nutrient. Plus, being given a new chance at life after months of suffering is enough to instantly transform a person’s psyche and make one more open to suggestions — especially when it comes to spiritual connections.”
Is this connection just spiritual, or is there more to it? Why would the characteristics of the changes so closely match that of the donor, especially when the recipient had no prior knowledge of these particular traits? Shermer believes the matches stem from “the brain’s tendency to search for ‘agenda infused patterns,’ which explain and give a greater meaning to things we don’t understand.”
Researchers Paul Pearsall, Ph.D., author of The Heart’s Code, worked with Dr. Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D. to study hundreds of cases of transplant recipients. Their theory was, “If cells contain and transfer memories, a connection forms that allows a person’s emotions, characteristics and energy to live on after death.”
Schwartz, who had been studying the donor vs recipient connection for over 25 years, believes that “if transplant recipients take on characteristics of their donors it is evidence that cells, and therefore organs, not just our brains — are capable of housing memories.” According to Schwartz, “Our brains create memories by using what I call ‘feedback loops,’ in which a neuron, or brain cell, fires a message, which then travels along a loop, simultaneously delivering information and gathering ‘feedback’ from other cells as it circles back to the same neuron. The feedback that’s gathered is then stored in the neuron as a memory.”
So far, science has not been able to prove or disprove either theory. “For now,” says Schwartz, “anything is possible.”
For Women FIRST Magazine, Sept. 19, 2011 edition, page 48