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Electrophysiological Evidence of Intuition:
Part 1. The Surprising Role of the Heart

Rollin McCraty, Ph.D.1, Mike Atkinson1, and Raymond Trevor Bradley, Ph.D.2

1 HeartMath Research Center, Institute of HeartMath, Boulder Creek, California.
2 Institute for Whole Social Science, Carmel, California.

Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2004; 10(1): 133-143.

For a PDF version of the complete paper, click here.

Abstract

Objectives: This study aims to contribute to a scientific understanding of intuition, a process by which information normally outside the range of conscious awareness is perceived by the psychophysiological systems. The first objective, presented in two empirical papers (Part 1 and Part 2), was to replicate and extend the results of previous experiments demonstrating that the body can respond to an emotionally arousing stimulus seconds before it is actually experienced. The second objective, to be presented in a third paper (Part 3), is to develop a theory that explains how the body receives and processes information involved in intuitive perception.

Design: The study used a counterbalanced crossover design, in which 30 calm and 15 emotionally arousing pictures were presented to 26 participants under two experimental conditions: a baseline condition of normal psychophysiologic function and a condition of physiological coherence. Primary measures included: skin conductance; the electroencephalogram (EEG), from which cortical event-related potentials and heartbeat-evoked potentials were derived; and the electrocardiogram (ECG), from which cardiac decelerations/accelerations were derived. These measures were used to investigate where and when in the brain and body intuitive information is processed.

Results: The study’s results are presented in two parts. The main findings in relation to the heart’s role in intuitive perception presented here are: (1) surprisingly, the heart appears to receive and respond to intuitive information; (2) a significantly greater heart rate deceleration occurred prior to future emotional stimuli compared to calm stimuli; (3) there were significant gender differences in the processing of prestimulus information. Part 2 will present results indicating where in the brain intuitive information is processed and data showing that prestimulus information from the heart is communicated to the brain. It also presents evidence that females are more attuned to intuitive information from the heart.

Conclusions: Overall, we have independently replicated and extended previous research documenting prestimulus responses. It appears that the heart is involved in the processing and decoding of intuitive information. Once the prestimulus information is received in the psychophysiologic systems, it appears to be processed in the same way as conventional sensory input. This study presents compelling evidence that the body’s perceptual apparatus is continuously scanning the future. To account for the results presented in Parts 1 and 2, Part 3 will develop a theory based on holographic principles explaining how intuitive perception accesses a field of energy into which information about future events is spectrally enfolded.