Memory transference and organ donors

20th November 2021. Reading Time: 8 minutes General, Paranormal Theories. 1388 page views. 1 comments.

We talk about our surroundings or objects absorbing energy, so it is not impossible to think our bodies are capable of the same. So what happens when we donate a piece of ourselves to another human being? There are cases all over the world of people's personalities changing or remembering events that are not their own after receiving an organ transplant.

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 in 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 that 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?

Cell memory

When you start researching cell memory, the first thing that comes up is usually information about vaccines.  The whole point of a vaccine essentially relies on a form of cell memory. 

The success of vaccines is dependent on the generation and maintenance of immunological memory. The immune system can remember previously encountered pathogens, and memory B and T cells are critical in secondary responses to infection.

Remembrance of Things Past: Long-Term B Cell Memory After Infection and Vaccination
Anna-Karin E. Palm† and Carole Henry*

Further from this, there are many particularly in natural medicine that believe that our cells retain our actual memories of a person.  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.

Image Source:

Study: Research ArticleNew Research, Cognition and Behavior
RNA from Trained Aplysia Can Induce an Epigenetic Engram for Long-Term Sensitization in Untrained Aplysia
Alexis Bédécarrats, Shanping Chen, Kaycey Pearce, Diancai Cai and David L. Glanzman

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 seem 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.

Do organ transplant recipients receive the memories or personalities of their donors?

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 as it is so widely reported. 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 may suddenly decide to live their life a little differently. Maybe they try new things they wouldn't normally have tried in the past.  For me for example, I finally took the plunge to delve into the paranormal, something I had wanted to do for many years.  It wasn't until after my surgery to remove the spleen and being quite ill for months I decided when I recovered to do all the things I had wanted to do.  

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.

Heart transplantation is not simply a question of replacing an organ that no longer functions. The heart is often seen as source of love, emotions, and focus of personality traits. To gain insight into the problem of whether transplant patients themselves feel a change in personality after having received a donor heart, 47 patients who were transplanted over a period of 2 years in Vienna, Austria, were asked for an interview. Three groups of patients could be identified: 79% stated that their personality had not changed at all postoperatively. In this group, patients showed massive defense and denial reactions, mainly by rapidly changing the subject or making the question ridiculous. Fifteen per cent stated that their personality had indeed changed, but not because of the donor organ, but due to the life-threatening event. Six per cent (three patients) reported a distinct change of personality due to their new hearts. These incorporation fantasies forced them to change feelings and reactions and accept those of the donor. Verbatim statements of these heart transplant recipients show that there seem to be severe problems regarding graft incorporation, which are based on the age-old idea of the heart as a centre that houses feelings and forms the personality.

Does changing the heart mean changing personality? A retrospective inquiry on 47 heart transplant patients
B Bunzel 1, B Schmidl-Mohl, A Grundböck, G Wollenek

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 that 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 old 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).

On a general scale, I myself have heard stories from people of some patients who suddenly take up smoking even though they have never smoked in their life.  Upon investigation, it seems the family of the donor confirm that they were a smoker.

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. 

This topic is something that can toe 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.

Do you have a story to share?  Tell us in the comments below!


Remembrance of Things Past: Long-Term B Cell Memory After Infection and Vaccination
Anna-Karin E. Palm† and Carole Henry*
Section of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, United States.

RNA from Trained Aplysia Can Induce an Epigenetic Engram for Long-Term Sensitization in Untrained Aplysia
Alexis Bédécarrats, Shanping Chen, Kaycey Pearce, Diancai Cai and David L. Glanzman
eNeuro 14 May 2018, 5 (3) ENEURO.0038-18.2018; DOI:

Does changing the heart mean changing personality? A retrospective inquiry on 47 heart transplant patients
B Bunzel 1, B Schmidl-Mohl, A Grundböck, G Wollenek

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 time 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.

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  • Dbee 3 years ago

    I never had surgery for transplant of an organ, however, about 16 years ago I had bones from a donor replaced in my neck where the bones haed been shattered. Not an organ but donor tissue or bones nevertheless. After about a month or so, I started craving onion rings. I had eaten them before but I wasn't crazy about them. After the surgery, that's all I could think about and had to go out and get some. To this day, I enjoy onion rings. Strange to say the least.