Can a New Heart Give You a New Personality?

Yes, but don't expect Dick Cheney to turn Democrat
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 27, 2012 11:27 AM CDT
Can a New Heart Give You a New Personality?
Dick Cheney: new heart, new personality?   (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

(Newser) – Dick Cheney officially has a new heart, and the jokes are rolling in (most recently, compliments of Jon Stewart). No big surprise that many of them are of the "maybe he'll wake up a Democrat" ilk. Which leads Slate to ponder: "Could a heart transplant actually lead to a change of heart?" In a word, yes. Just don't expect Cheney to cast a vote for Obama come November. Among the "significant physiological and psychological changes" that can occur post-transplant: Not so surprisingly, people can become happier, generally thanks to the fact that they should live longer than they expected to.

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But that happiness can also stem from the fact that they can eat foods that were previously off-limits, and they typically have more energy. But patients can also suffer from psychological issues brought on as a result of the heart being temporarily replaced by a machine during the operation: This has the potential to cause "transient depression," possibly due to a decrease in oxygen to the brain or the effect of blood cells touching the machine's surfaces. Slate notes that there have been anecdotes of new-heart recipients who say they start behaving like their donor did, though cardiologists typically pooh-pooh this; click to read about one professional dancer who says it happened to her. (Read more heart transplants stories.)

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