More On Cellular Memory. New Heart, New Personality, Too?

I have been writing this blog for over a year, and it is with great interest that I watch which of my posts gets the most attention.  Cellular Memory – Organ Recipients with Characteristics of Donorsis far and away the most popular of all the columns I have written by a factor of over two to one.  Why is that?  Why are so many people so interested in the possibility of adopting the characteristics of a total stranger?  I had a heart transplant eighteen months ago and have adopted no new characteristics but apparently that’s not true of all organ recipients.  Heart transplant patients lead the way in saying they have changed — taken on some of the characteristics of their donors and some of their stories are compelling.

I am not here to promote nor deny the existence of cellular memory I just find the topic fascinating especially because so many of my readers do.  Not long ago The Discovery Health Channel aired a program titled “Transplanting Memories.”  In the show experts explained why they believe in the concept.   Georgetown University Professor, Dr. Candace Pert, said she believes the mind is not just in the brain, but also exists throughout the body. “The mind and body communicate with each other through chemicals known as peptides,” she said. “These peptides are found in the brain as well as in the stomach, muscles and all of our major organs. I believe that memory can be accessed anywhere in the peptide/receptor network. For instance, a memory associated with food may be linked to the pancreas or liver and such associations can be transplanted from one person to another.”

Another expert, German neurologist, Leopold Auerbach, discovered over a century ago that a complex network of nerve cells, like those of the human brain, exist in the intestines.  And — Professor Wolfgang Prinz, of the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research, Munich, discussed the “second brain” in Geo, a German science magazine.  Prinz said the digestive track is made up of a knot of about 100 billion brain nerve cells, more than found in the spinal cord. The article suggested the cells may save information on physical reactions to mental processes and give out signals to influence later decisions. It may also be involved in emotional reactions to events.

Perhaps all of this explains the many stories on the internet of transplant patients taking on the personalities of their donors.

If you really want to explore this phenomenon I strongly encourage you to read Knowing By Heart: Cellular Memory in Heart Transplants by Kate Ruth Linton in the MONTGOMERY COLLEGE STUDENT JOURNAL OF SCIENCE & MATHEMATICS

Volume 2 September 2003,  

Ms. Linton writes:  “On May 29, 1988, a woman named Claire Sylvia received the heart of an 18-year-old male who had been killed in a motorcycle accident. Soon after the operation, Sylvia noticed some distinct changes in her attitudes, habits, and tastes. She found herself acting more masculine, strutting down the street (which, being a dancer, was not her usual manner of walking). She began craving foods, such as green peppers and beer, which she had always disliked before. Sylvia even began having recurring dreams about a mystery man named Tim L., who she had a feeling was her donor.

As it turns out, he was. Upon meeting the “family of her heart” as she put it, Sylvia discovered that her donor’s name was, in fact, Tim L., and that all the changes she had been experiencing in her attitudes, tastes, and habits closely mirrored that of Tim’s.”  Several transplant surgeons have contributed to a theory for cellular memory essentially based on psychological and metaphysical conditions, which Dr. Paul Pearsall has pieced together. Pearsall is a psychoneuroimmunologist, or a licensed psychologist who studies the relationship between the brain, immune system, and an individual’s life experiences.   Pearsall calls this theory the “Lowered Recall Threshold” Basically, it suggests that the immunosuppressive drugs that transplant recipients must take are what bring about associations to donor experiences in recipients. Immunosuppressive drugs minimize the chances of rejection of the new, foreign heart by suppressing the recipient’s immune system. Scientists believe these drugs could also possibly act as psychotropic, meaning “acting on the mind.”

There are many interesting passages in this treatise but you should read it for yourself — in its entirety.  If nothing else you will find it very, very thought provoking.  There’s a lot of information on this subject on the internet.  You might also be interested in:  

Please comment in the space below or email your thoughts to  me at

Also…visit my Facebook site, Organ Transplant Patients, Friends and You at  OR — my Facebook home page


About Bob Aronson

Bob Aronson is a former journalist, a Minnesota Governor's Press Secretary and talk show host. For nearly a quarter of a century, he led the Aronson Partnership, a Minnesota-based communications consultancy that prepared corporate and government executives for crisis situations, regulatory testimony, media interviews and Presentations. Among his clients were all three U.S. Mayo Clinic locations, 3M, general Mills, CH2M Hill, the U.S. Department of Energy and scores more. In 2007 bob had a heart transplant after suffering from idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy for 12 years. Shortly after he got his new heart he founded the now 4,300 member Facebook support group, Organ Transplant Initiative. At the same time, he established the Bob's Newheart blog where he has posted nearly 300 columns on organ donation, transplantation and other health related issues. The Viewpoint blog was started in late 2016 and bears the name of the Radio Talk show Bob did from 1966 until 1974, when he resigned to become Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich first Press secretary. Bob and his artist wife Robin, live in Jacksonville, Florida with their two dogs, Reilly and Ziggy. Bob is also a woodworker and makes all of the furnishings for Robin's art festival booth. He also makes one of a kind jewelry or "memories" boxes that he donates to select transplant patients, caregivers, donor families and others who have somehow contributed to making life easier for the ill, the elderly and the less fortunate. Bob is in the final stages of editing two full-length novels that will be available on Kindle when ready for release sometime in early 2017. One is a sci fi novel about an amazing discovery near Roswell, New Mexico and you will be surprised to find it has nothing to do with the Roswell story everyone knows. It features a woman scientist who investigates impact craters for the U.S. Department of the Interior, Dr. Rita Sylvester and her female student intern. The other book is a political thriller that introduces a new hero to the genre, Fargo Dennison.

Posted on February 17, 2009, in Cellular Memory. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Nice post on More On Cellular Memory. New Heart, New Personality, Too? Bob's NewHeart. Thanks! How can people say insurance companies should be able to deny based on pre-existing conditions?


  2. Fascinating story Karen. Thank you for sharing with us.


  3. I am a kidney transplant patient ( 3rd) this kidney is nearly 21 years old. At the time of the transplant and through my earlier years i was not sporty, I sewed , read books and was a very quiet and introverted person even as a healthy teenager. My kidney yes has given me a new lease on life but I also crave swimming a t least 2 km a few times a week and trying out “fitness” activities that are individual things e.g cycling. I am a mixture as I have never been competitive and interested in team sports or being “the best” at anything. Interestingly, I found out my donor was a around 40 and a female runner ( athlete) competitive.

    Notably, in the early days of my transplant when people took my photo I would feel it wasn’t me fully somehow. As time has gone by I thought I had another person sort of like a double exposed photo when I looked at photos but other people could not see it. Today I sense a more blended self and can “see” myself and someone else. No I don’t have psychiatric problems!
    I am still into cooking , sewing and reading but don’t take away the swimming or the healthy food.


    • Hi Karen,
      I am a journalist working for a documentary programme on Swiss Television. We are currently preparing a 26-minute story on the Cellular Memory theory.
      I read your comment and found it fascinating!
      Would you maybe be available for a chat over the phone? I’d really like to get to know more about your experience.
      Please email me on lisamlouis(at)
      Many thanks,


  4. Just watched the video on how to cure cancer with your fingertips. Would you please send that to me?


  5. Hi Bob.

    For the past 18 years, I have trained and specialized in the treatment of body memory. I have recently published my first book, Freedom from Body Memory. Like yourself, I am committed to broadening awareness of body memory and how it influences ones health, consciousness and behavior. I would be most interested in chatting with you about the phenomenon and opportunities to work together.



  6. I had a friend who had a lung transplant and her sister attests to the change in her tastes afterward. She suddenly craved spicy foods, which she had always hated. She started loving football, something she had never been interested in. And somehow, she knew her donor was a young male Hispanic. Sure enough, a few years later, she met the donor’s family in an emotional meeting, and discovered it was in fact, a teenaged male Hispanic. She said she had a strange question for the family, and asked if the donor had liked spicy food or football. They said he loved spicy food and had been a football fanatic. I would never have believed it, had I not known this woman to be the most honest, unpretentious, and drama-eschewing person. I now think there is definitely cellular memory. I’m not sure how it works, but convinced there is something to it.


  7. I definitely believe in cellular memory and not just for hearts.

    I’ve had a liver transplant and had the pleasure of knowing my donor as it was a living donor transplant.

    My cousin is an avid biker and one of the first things I wanted to do when I got well was ride a bike.
    Also, she is attracted to a certain type of man that I was never attracted to and now I am married to just such a man.

    One of my female friends that also got a liver transplant was very interested in wrestling after her transplant and she received the liver of a male cadaver.

    Anyway, cellular memory is real and it is experienced in some capacity by other transplant recipients


  8. A Facebook friend sent this link and I thought I’d share it with those of you who are interested in the cellular memory issue. Just paste this into your browser. The video is in four parts and it’s a little long but you’ll be captivated as I was.

    Bob Aronson


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