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In the paranormal field, we talk about energy being absorbed by objects and our surroundings. The Stone tape theory works on the premise that our actions are essentially being recorded by our surroundings and can potentially ‘replay’ if the conditions are right. This is what a lot of people would describe as a residual haunting. With this in mind, it would not be completely crazy to think that our own body is full of our own energy imprints. A lot of people into natural medicine believe that our cells retain memories. So what happens when we physically give a part of ourselves to another person through organ donation? It seems that there are a lot of documented cases throughout the years which indicate organ recipients (more commonly heart transplant patients) undergo a personality change and remember memories that are not their own. Can there be some kind of memory transference through organ transplants?
I automatically start thinking about the movie called The Eye with Jessica Alba. If you haven't seen it, it is about a blind musician who has a cornea transplant allowing her to see. She soon starts having visions of people who are dead. She manages to prevent a disaster and save a lot of people but in the process is injured and becomes blind again. My friend recently told me a story where she helped someone who also had a cornea transplant. She would see three people that were not there and started having a lot of paranormal experiences after the transplant. Did the transplant open her up to the paranormal or did she absorb some sort of psychic gift from the donor? The answer we will never know, but it brings up the idea of memory transference.
There are a lot of people that believe the cells in our body can retain memory. There have been studies where researchers studied the neurons of sea slugs which without getting really technical established that they were able to wipe the long term memory of a live sea slug and re-formed them by manipulating their neurons with stimulation. The cell memory theory itself suggests that memories are not just retained in our brain as we believe. They are stored throughout our body through our cells. Claims from organ transplant recipients seems to back this theory with reports of people who have received donated organs undergoing a personality change or remembering things that never happened to them.
Is there scientific evidence to back this theory?
There is no concrete scientific evidence that says if you have an organ transplant then you will remember what the previous owner remembers. There has however been a number of studies conducted looking into this phenomenon. The studies show that the majority of people either notice no change in their personality or any small changes are put down to having life altering surgery. I know from personal experience after going through something that you could have potentially died from, it gives you a bit of a new lease on life so it makes sense that someone would be stopping to smell the roses so to speak. Perhaps they try new things they wouldn't normally have tried in the past. Perhaps they stop doing the things they don't like anymore because 'life is too short'.
What is worth noting however is in a study conducted by Dr Benjamin Bunzel from the Department of Surgery was that out of 47 subjects who had undergone heart transplants, 6% (which equates to 3 patients) felt they had undergone a significant personality change after receiving a new heart. This study however was also over 20 years old and 79% of the participants were uncomfortable with the questioning and the subject nature so it is possible there could have been more.
So scientifically it seems that if you do have to undergo an organ transplant, chances are you won’t take on someone’s personality and science can essentially debunk this claim, but much like the paranormal, even though it can be explained, there are stories out there where people believe that it has happened to them.
What are some of the claims?
Dr Pearsall collected the accounts of 73 heart transplant recipients and a further 67 patients who received a different organ such as a kidney or liver. Some of the accounts were:
An 8 year old girl received a heart from a 10 year old girl who had been murdered. She began having vivid nightmares over and over about the murder. After several sessions with a psychiatrist, they established that the visions were an actual physical event. They contacted the police with information which lead to the capture and conviction of the murderer.
William Sheridan who was a retired catering manager suddenly developed artistic talent after receiving a heart transplant. Before then, he was a poor drawer. After investigating the donor of the heart, it was found that he was a very keen artist.
A 47 year old white male received the heart of a 17 year old black male student. After the transplant the 47 year suddenly had a fascination for classical music. As his heart came from a young black male student, he didn’t think that it would have come from him, until he discovered that the donor loved classical music and died holding his violin (as he was on the way to music class).
These are just some of the stories. Can they be put down to co incidence, or could there be an alternative explanation?
What are alternative explanations
The simplest explanation which most people believe is what is called ‘The Hospital Grapevine Theory’. While under anaesthesia, it is possible that the person who is under could be influenced by the discussions had by the nurses and surgeons during the operations. Could it just be a case of the power of suggestion?
When people receive a transplant, they are put on a lot of drugs to stop the body from rejecting a new organ. One of the side effects of the drugs is a change in personality. While it is an immunosuppressive drug, it can also be psychoactive.
Some psychics have a theory as well. They believe it is not so much that the organ has retained memory, but more a case of residual energy of the donor being present or even going as far as the spirit of the donor being attached to the organ itself. Is this what happened above with the cornea transplant recipient?
This topic is something that can tow the line of a paranormal investigator researching the afterlife as they have a lot in common. The theories are there, the claims are there and the potential is there, but scientifically it cannot be proven. Much like what a personal experience would be to someone communicating with the spirit world, this too would be something very personal. Only you would know if you felt different. Only you would know if feel differently about things or started to remember things that you never remembered before. No one knows you better than yourself, so very much like the afterlife, I don’t think this is something that could be definitively proved by science. It comes down to your personal beliefs and experiences.
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Special note: Please register for organ donation. You can potentially give the gift of life to someone who needs it. We are so much more than pur bodies and many of us believe that our soul lives on. When it comes to make the final journey, your body and your organs are no longer needed by you. By donating your organs , you could be saving and extending the life of someone else. It is the greatest gift that anyone can possibly give.