Know by Heart

Woman looking at other woman with wondering face

Do I know you? My heart says yes!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Memories…light the corners of our minds! But what about our hearts?

Enter Katia Mattarozzi and colleagues from University of Bologna in Italy. They wondered – is there a connection between heart rate and memory?

More than fifty college students had their heart rate recorded. Researchers calculated subjects’ heart rate variability, the time between each heartbeat, based on their heart rate.

Then, all the subjects viewed faces paired with either good, bad, or so-so descriptions. Example? This man helped an old man in a wheelchair cross a busy street. The students were tested on recognizing these same faces a week later.

Results? Participants with high heart rate variability recognized almost ten percent more positive and negative faces. But they did not remember faces with so-so descriptions as well.

Mattarozzi believes that our hearts do remember! But only when the information makes us feel something, whether good or bad!

No wonder I can’t forget that guy who delivered our pizza! Heavenly Hawaiian pizza….

Reference: Mattarozzi, K., Colonnello, V., Thayer, J. F., & Ottaviani, C. (2019). Trusting your heart: Long-term memory for bad and good people is influenced by resting vagal tone. Consciousness and Cognition, 75, 102810.