Archive for July, 2013

Jul 02 2013

Follow Up on Head Transplants

Published by under Neuroscience

I recently wrote about the implausibility of performing whole head or brain transplants.  By coincidence (I think, unless this paper triggered the question to which I was responding) a recent paper proposes how to successfully complete a human head transplant.

Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero writes:

“The greatest technical hurdle to [a head transplant] is of course the reconnection of the donor’s (D)’s and recipients (R)’s spinal cords. It is my contention that the technology only now exists for such linkage…. [S]everal up to now hopeless medical connections might benefit from such a procedure.”

To recap my prior post – prior surgeons have attached the head of a monkey or dog onto the body of another. I argued that these were not really transplants but grafts, as the body was providing blood to the severed head, but there was no functional connection. The primary hurdle to achieving any kind of functional connection is the spinal cord.

Canavero is arguing that with existing technology we can make a clean sharp cut of the donor and recipient spinal cords and this will allow them to connect together, providing functional control of the severed head to the donor body (what he calls a cephalosomatic linkage).  He adds that a plastic like polyethylene glycol can be used to “glue” the two spinal cord ends together and encourage their regeneration.

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Jul 01 2013

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Autism

A clinic known as the Brain Treatment Center (BTC) is offering what they call Magnetic Resonance Therapy, or MRT™, as a treatment for autism and other disorders, including sleep disorders, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, emotional disorders, anxiety, addiction, and for athletic performance.

MRT (always be suspicious of a medical treatment that is trademarked) consists of transcranial magnetic stimulation along with other modalities:

…EEG, brain stimulation, Neurofeedback, EKG and other biometric techniques to provide a highly customized treatment personalized to how a patient’s brain takes in, processes, and communicates information.

I will discuss both the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for autism, and the specific claims made by BTC, starting with the latter.


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