Jun 28 2013

Head Transplantion

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9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Head Transplantion”

  1. DOYLEon 28 Jun 2013 at 12:04 pm

    The stuff great fiction is made of.

  2. Kawarthajonon 28 Jun 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Woohooo! I’m only 39 1/2, meaning that I should start saving for my head transplant. Phew, just made it in under the wire!

    All joking aside, this is a great, very interesting question and I really appreciate your answer Steve! Something that might cross your mind, but I don’t have the ability to answer.

    It seems like stem cells will come to play a big part in reconnecting severed nerves. Would they not also play a role in head transplants in the future, say if your body was crushed? You hear about rats/mice having abilities restored with the help of stem cells. Are we really far away from that in humans as well?

  3. Jared Olsenon 28 Jun 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Awesome! Great question and amazing answer. This is now one of my favourite posts!
    I remember in the film of the Lovecraft short story, the head was kept alive (and talking!) by sitting in a tray of fresh blood. At the time I thought that was probably insufficient…

  4. BillyJoe7on 29 Jun 2013 at 10:43 pm

    “I’m going to stick my neck out…”

    Good one, Steve. (:

  5. Bill from Fallbrookon 01 Jul 2013 at 12:24 pm

    FYI… Just saw this story this AM, don’t know if it’s legitimate or not: http://nextbigfuture.com/2013/06/technical-hurdles-have-been-overcome.html

  6. practiCal fMRIon 01 Jul 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Hi Steven,

    There’s another interesting angle to the idea of a brain transplantation. According to Anthonio D’Amasio’s last book (and probably others), he postulates that much of our sense of self is due to hierarchical spatial maps – maps of our limbs in space, maps of our internal organs, maps of our location relative to the ground, to danger, etc. A brain that has matured in one body would then have spatial maps appropriate for that body. There might well be an initial incompatibility with a new body; perhaps a sense akin to vertigo, or “outer body experience,” or who knows what. Perhaps the brain would need a (long?) period of re-mapping via new functional/anatomical connections. The new brain might have to learn how to “drive” the new body just as infant brains have to learn how to interact with their world. I only mention all of this to give voice to the notion that a brain and a body may not be as functionally separable as we might think at first blush. As a neuroimager I do tend to treat the body as a life-support system for the organ of interest, but I concede that neuro-centric view could be highly misleading!



  7. Davdoodleson 01 Jul 2013 at 8:38 pm

    “The alternative to a full head transplant is a brain transplant.”

    I’d have thought that would be more difficult as it would invovlve all the same spinal comnections as a head-to-body graft, but also connecting up the optic, auditory, olfactory nerves etc.

    Even re a head-to-body graft, certainly at the moment, a spinal re-connection seems beyond our abilities. But, assuming that all the other plumbing issues (connecting up veins, lymphatic and ventriculalr systems, meninges), etc can be overcome, would the head be conscious? ie would it be effectively like a person with a complete upper spinal break – a quadriplegic but otherwise able to see, hear, smell? Talk?

    If so, I wonder if a person with massive body damage but an intact head (eg someone run over by a train), would want to be transplanted onto a healthy body with a destroyed head (eg a suicide-by-gunshot victim), even if it meant living as a quadriplegic?

    Happy thoughts…

  8. Mlemaon 02 Jul 2013 at 12:43 am

    I didn’t look at any of the articles or watch the video, but I’m really troubled by the fact that people would kill animals in this way: cutting the head off and keeping the brain alive by transplanting the head. This sounds like torture to me. Anyone who’s ever had a pet knows that animals have emotions, and I suspect living for even a few days in this fashion would involve fear and pain.

    I hope I’m misunderstanding the experiments and that the animals were effectively dead, and the research was just showing circulation or something, and no brain function in the transplant.

  9. Billzbubon 08 Jul 2013 at 12:55 pm

    But, what about heads in jars Futurama-style?

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