It is generally assumed that learning involves primarily the nervous system and secondarily the immune system. Hence, patients receiving peripheral organ transplants should not experience personality changes that parallel the personalities of donors they have never met. When personality changes have been observed following transplants, the kinds of explanations entertained include effects of the immunosuppressant drugs, psychosocial stress, and pre-existing psychopathology of the recipients.

Living systems theory explicitly posits that all living cells possess "memory" and "decider" functional subsystems within them. Moreover, the recent integration of systems theory with the concept of energy (termed dynamical energy systems theory) provides compelling logic that leads to the prediction that all dynamical systems store information and energy to various degrees.The systemic memory mechanism provides a plausible explanation for the evolution of emergent (novel) systemic properties through recurrent feedback interactions (i.e., the nonlinear circulation of information and energy that reflects the ongoing interactions of the components in a complex, dynamic network).

Cases reported
In 1997, a book titled "A Change of Heart" was published that described the apparent personality changes experienced by Claire Sylvia.Sylvia received a heart and lung transplant at Yale–New Haven Hospital in 1988. She reported noticing that various attitudes, habits and tastes changed following her surgery. She had inexplicable cravings for foods she had previously disliked. For example, though she was a health-conscious dancer and choreographer, upon leaving the hospital she had an uncontrollable urge to go to a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet and order chicken nuggets, a food she never ate. Sylvia found herself drawn toward cool colours and no longer dressed in the bright reds and oranges she used to prefer. She began behaving in an aggressive and impetuous manner that was uncharacteristic of her but turned out to be similar to the personality of her donor. Interestingly, uneaten Kentucky Fried Chicken nuggets were found in the jacket of the young man (her donor) when he was killed.Opinions about the plausibility of cellular memory were sought by William Novak, the co-author of the book. Pearsall proposed that the immunosuppressant drugs could conceivably lower the threshold for patients to potentially register cellular memories stored in the transplanted organs. Schwartz and Russek proposed that the rejection process might not only reflect the rejection of the material comprising the cells but also the systemic information and energy stored within the cells as well.Sylvia was unique because she received a substantial amount of new tissue (heart and lungs), she was health conscious and she was emotionally open and sensitive. Schwartz and Russek proposed that Claire Sylvia might be the "white crow" of cellular systemic memory.

Another case
The donor was an 18-year-old boy killed in an automobile accident. The recipient was an 18-year-old girl diagnosed with endocarditis and subsequent heart failure.
The donor's father, a psychiatrist, said: "My son always wrote poetry. We had waited more than a year to clean out his room after he died. We found a book of poems he had never shown us, and we've never told anyone about them. One of them has left us shaken emotionally and spiritually. It spoke of his seeing his own sudden death. He was a musician, too, and we found a song he titled "Danny, My Heart Is Yours"—the words about how my son felt he was destined to die and give his heart to someone. He had decided to donate his organs when he was 12 years old. We thought it was quite strong, but we thought they were talking about it in school. When we met his recipient, we were so...we didn't know, like, what it was. We don't know now. We just don't know."

The recipient reported:"When they showed me pictures of their son, I knew him directly. I would have picked him out anywhere. He's in me. I know he is in me and he is in love with me. He was always my lover, maybe in another time somewhere. How could he know years before he died that he would die and give his heart to me? How would he know my name is Danny? And then, when they played me some of his music, I could finish the phrases of his songs. I could never play before, but after my transplant I began to love music. I felt it in my heart. My heart had to play it. I told my mom I wanted to take guitar lessons—the same instrument Paul [the donor] had played. His song is in me. I feel it a lot at night and it's like Paul is serenading me."

The recipient's father reported:
"My daughter, she was what you say....a hell-raiser. Until she got sick—they say from a dentist, they think—she was the wild one. Then she became quite quiet. I think it was her illness, but she said she felt more energy, not less. She said she wanted to play an instrument and she wanted to sing. When she wrote her first song, she sang about her new heart as her lover's heart. She said her lover had come to save her life."


Still another case
The donor was a 16-month-old boy who drowned in a bathtub. The recipient was a seven-month-old boy diagnosed with tetralogy of Fallot (a hole in the ventricular septum with displacement of the aorta, pulmonary stenosis and thickening of the right ventricle).The donor's mother, a physician, noted:
"The first thing is that I could more than hear Jerry's [donor's] heart. I could feel it in me. When Carter [the recipient] first saw me, he ran to me and pushed his nose against me and rubbed and rubbed it. It was just exactly what we did with Jerry. Jerry and Carter's heart is five years old now, but Carter's eyes were Jerry's eyes. When he hugged me, I could feel my son. I mean I could feel him, not just symbolically. He was there. I felt his energy.
"I'm a doctor. I'm trained to be a keen observer and have always been a natural-born sceptic. But this was real. I know people will say that I need to believe my son's spirit is alive, and perhaps I do. But I felt it. My husband and my father felt it. And I swear to you, and you can ask my mother, Carter said the same baby-talk words that Jerry said. Carter is six, but he was talking Jerry's baby talk and playing with my nose just like Jerry did.

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