Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Will His Heart Go On?

The notion of cellular memory, or the idea that an individual's personality traits might be stored within the body's tissues, has captured the imaginations of many. Even Hollywood's gotten into the act with the movie, The Eye (which was a remake of a 2002 Asian film--catch up, Hollywood!)

Academics and the scientific community in general regard the very idea that donated tissues and organs can influence recipients' personality as ridiculous. Urban myths and even some research suggest the possibility of a relationship between a recipient's personality changing after a transplant, but available research does not definitively indicate a link.

I love the scientific method. After all, nothing wins an argument better than a stack of reliable, valid clinical studies. But I also believe that some things aren't easy to prove with or without the scientific method. Yet there is so much science doesn't know about ... well, everything.

I wonder how many doctors laugh at the idea of cellular memory, yet secretly believe in the slightest possibility that it might exist. I wonder how many secretly believe the chemicals that allow our brains to store and apply knowledge, preferences and memories might exist in other tissues, and might influence a recipient's fundamental chemistry.

Apparently, entertaining possibilities and admitting that we really don't know anything about the human body's potential isn't very scientific. I can accept that. But I can entertain all the possibilities I want. I'm not a scientist. I'm a blogger!

Today I was reading Skippy Stalin. He wrote about a Georgia man named Sonny Graham who received a heart transplant twelve years ago from one Terry Cottle, who died after he killed himself with a shotgun blast. But Sonny didn't just receive Terry's heart, he also married his wife, Cheryl. Twelve years after receiving the heart transplant, Sonny also killed himself with a shot-gun blast. Yeah, that's right. Let's all say it together: What the fuck?

Read Skippy Stalin's take on the story here:


Anyway, the story begs many questions--you know, after what the fuck?--and that is, which came first? The suicidal tendency or wanting to stick it to the wife? What if Sonny had met Cheryl after Terry had died under different circumstances, like at the American Legion or at the Piggly Wiggly? What if they'd hit it off and gotten married under a whole other set of circumstances? Would Sonny still be alive? That's assuming, of course, that he'd gotten his heart transplant from another donor.

Once again, I'll be the first to admit that the research supporting cellular memory is spotty at best. Nevertheless, a situation such as this does make me wonder if there might be something beyond the power of suggestion. The following link is the same story coming out of most of the big media outlets. I'm still going to poke around and see what else I can find out about this strange situation. Here's the article I found in the Chicago Tribune:


I know it's morbid and rude as hell of me, but now I really want to know more about what transpired over the last twelve years of Sonny Graham's life. I want to know more about Terry Cottle. And I'm really curious to know how Cheryl Cottle-Graham is doing. The obvious joke here is that Cheryl Cottle-Graham is impossible to live with, but that just seems way too easy. At first, when I read about the situation, I laughed at the absurdity. But now I'm really curious to understand if there are any possible links, or if it's all just a bunch of crazy pseudo-scientific nonsense making the news.


Anonymous said...

Well I am no doctor, but I took several biology courses. This topic reminds me of the old horror movie "THE HAND". When the hand got chopped off it would seek revenge for it's owners murder. A laughable premise.

Listen all our personality, all we are is just a bundle of specialized nerve cells that are recieving electrical impulses.
The brain is fragile, one chemical interruption, one tumor, one disease, one hormonal imbalance, and we cease to be who we are. Couldn't a traumatic experience alter this persons brain, make him susceptible to suggestion. "Hey I got this man's heart, I must have his feelings, his wants, his desires."

Do I hope there is more to this mortal coil then this flesh and bone? Yes. Do I know? No I do not. What I do know is that the cells in my finger may have the same DNA code, if you were to grow another me, and that it would share the same traits as I would is true, but to say that those finger cells would retain the memories, and experiences that I been through is not only supernatural, but super-ludicrous.

Nora said...

Hey, Riv. I'm commenting from my phone. Your assessment of the topic is exactly how most of science sees it. I tend to agree to a large extent, but I ALWAYS leave a little room in my mind and heart for the ludicrous, the absurd. The bottom line is, the mysteries of life are limitless. While this is probably an easily rationalized situation (power of suggestion much?) it served to remind me of how little we really understand the functioning or the potential of our bodies on a cellular level.

Any screenwriter is going to make a screaming joke of such a concept. All I want to do is explore the possibility.

Hey! I know! Let's switch our left eyeballs and see what happens!

Thanks for your thoughtful and intelligent response, as always, River.


Anonymous said...

Dear lord not my left eyeball, that is the evil one.

Ratherto said...

Another good movie is Body Parts starring Jeff Fahey.

Ratherto said...

I tend to subscribe to the bad joke that she is impossible to deal with...or maybe she's killing them for insurance money.

Ratherto said...

OH! I thought of another movie...The Eye.

Nora said...

Yeah, Hollywood's been dealing in the cellular memory game for a while. In my research, I think in Robert Todd Carroll's site, he mentioned James Caan in Brian's Game. Let me see if I can find a link for you guys:


He's of the mind that cellular memory is total horseshit, and he makes a lot of sense. But if I still believe in Santa, I have to reserve a little for the possibility of cellular memory!

Luke Baggins said...

None of my news sources, that would be here and Skippy's, have answered the most crucial question of this story. Was the heart transplanted to someone else? And has that someone been in touch with the wife?

Nora said...

Luke, that's exactly why I ripped off that Celine Dion song title for this blog post. I wondered the same thing: will his heart go on? It's only like forty-five years old now.

I need to do some investigation.