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What is a Cellular Memory?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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According to some theorists, the cells of the body retain memories independently from the brain. This phenomenon is known as “cellular memory,” and it has attracted a number of supporters in various communities around the world. Many scientific authorities dispute the concept though, arguing that phenomena which are attributed to it probably have more prosaic explanations.

The idea behind cellular memory is that cells can store memories about experiences, sensations, taste, habits, and other core aspects of someone's identity. Promoters of the theory believe that these memories are stored through the exchange of chemicals between cells, just as they are stored in the brain. Theorists believe that cells may also be able to store information related to traumatic experiences.

This idea was popularized as the result of a number of anecdotal stories involving organ transplants. All of these stories involved recipients who adopted new habits after transplant, or who claimed to remember experiences which had not actually happened. Some people suggested that these events could be explained by cellular memory, as a result of donor organs influencing their recipients. Others suggested that they might be the result of chemical changes in the body caused by transplant medications.

Many of these stories had some distinctive flaws which suggested that there might be other explanations. People who claim to have a taste for alcohol after transplant, for example, could be responding to psychological suggestions about cell memory, inventing a past for a donor and relying on the fact that many donor organs come from youths involved in alcohol-related car crashes.

Some casual surveys of organ recipients have been undertaken to explore cellular memory and its role in organ transplant. These studies have generally suggested that the theory cannot be proved, as people who claim to experience cellular memory often come from communities where such concepts are widely accepted and believed, which makes them more open to suggestion. Often, the memories and habits which recipients claim are the result of cellular memory cannot be linked with the donor.

Like many theories which are largely dismissed by the conventional medical establishment, the idea of cellular memory has not been rigorously tested in controlled studies. Supporters of the theory often reject such studies because they argue that they are flawed because of their connection with “the establishment,” while many skeptics are unwilling to embark on studies to disprove a theory which they already think is wrong. This rather short-sighted attitude is unfortunate, as it might be interesting to conduct large scale scientific studies to get to the bottom of the claims.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon1001044 — On Feb 23, 2019

I was first introduced to the theory of cell memory, after years of historical and familial research, and noticing certain undeniable patterns that I wanted to find an explanation for. Usually certain patters die out within a few generations, some seem to continue for hundreds of years. So, my question is how far back can cell memory go? Because it would explain so much in genealogical terms. The "disputes" used in this article are very weak. Almost unbelievable. "the result of chemical changes in the body caused by transplant medications..." and "responding to psychological suggestions about cell memory, inventing a past for a donor and relying on the fact that many donor organs come from youths involved in alcohol related car crashes..." (Seriously?, This is a general response to almost everything that is unexplained.)

"People who claim to experience cell memory often come from communities where such concepts are widely accepted and believed, ...makes them more open to suggestion" (again, this is a standard response to something unexplained). Then they took it too far with "often, memories and habits which recipients claim are the result of cellular memory cannot be linked with the donor" (so, maybe it can be linked to the donors ancestor(s) huh ?)

The only thing I can agree with in the article is that "short-sighted attitude is unfortunate". In my opinion, this may be the area to research for the answers to the "cure" of cancers or Alzheimer's or any disease involving cell division or replication. "Conventional Medical Establishment" is a broad term. There are at least 23 sciences in medicine, many of which are involved in the study of cell memory in some form or another. There are and have been control studies which are making progress everyday in understanding cell memory. And for those who like organized religion, maybe cell memory is what is referred to as eternal life.

By anon974534 — On Oct 18, 2014

On this subject, I didn't even know what it was called until recently. My father was a kidney transplant recipient. The day after his surgery, I called him. He answered the phone breathless and out of it. I joked, “What do they have you doing? Running the halls already?" He said he was sleeping and saw bright lights coming at him. He said he thought he was driving, but wasn't positive. I wrote it off as the trauma of surgery, but it kept happening to him.

Each time he had more detail. He was on a back road, at night, driving home from work and a car swerved into him and he died. It was so unsettling considering what he had just endured. Then the food cravings started. He drank so much orange juice it started to compromise the functioning of the new kidney. Then came fountain drinks. He had to have one daily, always in the late afternoon. I don't remember ever having orange juice in the house growing up, and he always preferred bottled pop to fountain. Then came him wanting to hear Zydeco music. Yeah, I'd never heard of it either. None of us had. My dad was the son of an Irish mom and Slovak dad, both immigrants. All of a sudden he knew names of singers, songs, where to tune in to the AM radio to listen to it, and wanted to attend the festival in Pittsburgh, which, I believe there were only a few ever.

Then he liked chicken, which he always hated. He had a bad experience as a child that scarred him for life. He saw a relative cut off a chicken’s head and he said it ran around for days afterwards. My mom and we kids loved chicken dishes and he would make it, but never touched it much. If it was fairly plain, he turned his nose up, and if it was slathered in something he'd have a few small bites.

When you have a transplant, you aren't allowed to inquire for at least a year (I believe) on the identity of the donor. But our dad was so troubled by some of these changes he had to know. His donor was an older lady who was driving home from work. She had stopped to get a soft drink at a fast foot place as she had every night before coming home. She loved zydeco music and always had it on in her car. She was killed in a car accident, at night, hit head on.

I thought this info would bewilder my dad, because it did us, but he was almost vindicated. He kept saying it was the organ, not the surgery, not the meds, the organ. He said it felt like something more had been added to him, more than a kidney. Sadly, my dad passed in '05. He passed at home after heart surgery. He wanted a horse drawn hearse with a second line, which was quite a sight in a tiny town in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Do I believe in cellular memory? Abso-freaking-lutely.

By anon966527 — On Aug 20, 2014

Can one memory cell can be transferred to a cloned human with no memory cells?

By anon285864 — On Aug 17, 2012

To (anon129684) Post 8: What is a D.O? I think I would like to visit your D.O. to get rid of my pain.

By anon240678 — On Jan 15, 2012

Very interesting subject. I speak from a christian point of view. A Bible verse says, "when you were formed in your mother's womb I had a plan for you." God has created people in His own image, and if you are a child of God, his very DNA is in your blood.

We have all been created spiritual beings, but you have a choice which route you want to go. If we are in Christ we are new creations, and obviously our cells will only remember the good that happened. We can be set free and be healed of anything that is stored in our memory, our subconscious or any bad experience we've had in life by the Blood of the Lamb and in the Name of Jesus Christ. He is the author and finisher of our faith.

By anon158464 — On Mar 07, 2011

There is physical DNA which our scientists have proven. It is what determines height, eye color, possible future disease, etc., and all of this is taken from the genetic encoding of our past familial lineages. However there is also spiritual DNA (not yet looked for or proven by science) that is housed as well within the links of physical DNA.

This houses the encoding for aspects of personality, memories from former lifetimes and soul knowledge gained. Each lifetime lived adds to this encoding and this is passed on with the physical DNA codes. This is the basis for cellular memory not related to the current lifetime. So, it is feasible that, when taking organs from another, that the DNA, both physical and spiritual, could interface with existing native DNA and effect changes.

By anon129684 — On Nov 24, 2010

My daughter is a speech and language pathologist and says cell memory makes sense with some of the issues sand patients she treats.

I had an experience at my D.O. recently (two months ago), and years of low back pain in the sacrum area are completely gone and have not returned. She spoke of cell memory of the trauma in my life. the full term stillbirth of my son, his funeral was on his due date 19 years ago. Also rape, long before that.

She pressed on the sacrum for a good while, and she said I had the worst spasms and deepest in that area she had ever felt. Towards the end of her pressing the spasm out it felt like ice, then on fire, hot enough I swore she could have burned me.

She asked if I felt the heat. I did and she said she felt it go into her belly and she had to leave to throw up. She was not sick before or afterwards. The vomit was clear acid, unlike anything she had ever vomited. The vomit part sounds spiritual to me.

It was the first I had ever heard of cell memory. When she was pressing on the area I was moved to sobbing from emotion, not pain from what she was doing. Afterwards she told me of the cell memory thing. So I am looking up online about it curiously. I wonder though to if it is that in combination with a spiritual thing that happened to me. Or just one or the other.

I know that after 30 plus years of pain, chiropractors, messages, doctors etc. I am finally pain free after what she did in an hour on that place in my back.

Also I think organ transplants is different than eating something. The organs still have life in them, the chicken we eat is dead. And don't cells change with cooking?

I also heard of people meeting the organ donors family and hearing about personality traits, favorite foods etc the donor liked that the person receive there organs now likes. This was on tv a some years ago. Interviews with the paired up families. Was that all fake on a subconscious level to help them feel better?

I am open to learn and interested after what happened to me wherever the evidence would lead. Worth checking out.

Before I heard about this I suspected the spirits of donors trapped in the receivers body. I hope cell memory is the answer.

By anon119881 — On Oct 19, 2010

Dismissing patient stories as anecdotal is unscientific. Patient experiences are one form of data and to ridicule them as being subject to suggestion and outside psychological forces is as unscientific as any of the claims the skeptics attempt to debunk.

These stories need to be collected and analyzed using qualitative research methods to find similarities. We need to be respectful of people's experiences even if we cannot understand them. and remember the history of science is full of bunkum that we no longer accept.

By anon89305 — On Jun 09, 2010

Well, one must remember, that piece of cow you ate last night was in bad shape on a cellular level. By the time it got in you it was burned, chewed up, dipped in acid and broke down so bad i doubt it remembered it was a cow. It's an electrical connection thing. If it ain't hooked up right, it don't light.

By anon86684 — On May 26, 2010

There is a difference between empirical evidence and anecdotal evidence. The former does not support cellular memory; the latter sometimes does. That difference is what separates science from philosophy.

By anon86681 — On May 26, 2010

If universal quantum mechanics proves -or even explains- "cellular memory," then why don't I remember what the tree experienced when I sit down at a desk? Or at least I should remember what I studied if I sit at the same desk for a final exam.

Perhaps contact isn't enough to transfer memory. What about remembering the life experiences of a cow or chicken or head of lettuce? Are the quantum mechanics any weaker from ingestion than transplantation? It should be stronger since the quanta actually become part of my cells, not merely co-residents of my body.

By anon81386 — On May 01, 2010

This is true, and real empirical experience supports this, and trying to prove opposite is just dumb.

It will be accepted in near future by so called 'science community', but yogis and many therapeutic practices built upon this already know it is true.

If people concentrate upon exploring new possibilities instead of concentrating how to disprove something we would have faster progress. Look at Copernicus, Galileo and many contemporaries.

By anon55831 — On Dec 09, 2009

this is crap! memory is maintained as connections among neuron cells but not in any other cells.

By anon52392 — On Nov 13, 2009

Quantum mechanics teaches that all things are energetic. A desk, although it appears to be matter, exhibits a resonant frequency, albeit a very slow frequency.

If all things are energetic and resonating, then we must conclude that our bodies do the same. Such a conclusion would support the concept of cell resonance and energy fields. Energy fields can retain information and thus, one can reasonably conclude that cells which are energy can also retain information--or memory.

Following this train of thought, the concept of cell memory as has been suggested, makes sense and conforms to the quantum principles with which we are now familiar.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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