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.
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.)