Die. But leave me your brain.

Last weekends I read a story of R.Dahl “William and Mary”, which is about the relationship between a husband and wife (we will omit their story here) and the death. But not a usual death. William was suffering from cancer and he knew he would die soon. Suddenly, he was offered to undertake a tempting procedure, that would mean to transplant his brain from the body after the death and to plug it in artificial heart. The brain would be placed in a water tank –  in a Ringer’s solution and moreover it would be possible to attach an eye so that “William” can see, read books and newspapers! The doctor is uncertain whether the brain will be consciousness and I am uncertain if all that is actually possible beyond the book…

  • Is this remotely workable to keep the brain alive and functional in a similar way without the body? Or this is just purely fairy-tale??

Currently No. Possible in the future.
In theory you could do that, if there is an infinite and intact supply of blood and oxygen as well as essential nutrients are constantly simulated. One of the obstacles could be the next: the brain starts to die within 3 minutes of oxygen deprivation at normal temperature, which means that either you should operate very and very quickly (what is hard) or cool the body down, extract the brain and then activate blood supply to maintain oxygen (what is very difficult)
So this basically means, that you can set apart brain and body and keep the brain alive, but a brain not connected to a body is useless, for there is no longer connection to human nervous system. There are no feelings, emotions or need. No hunger, no sex, no love. Currently technology can  not solve this puzzle.

  • How long can brain “live” without body then?

Not forever. But longer than 100 years.
Imagine that pumping machine that creates illusion of heart and supports oxygen to  brain. Consider that brain is not damaged at all, it will as a biologial oranism  change with the time, get older and finally decay. So the oxygen itself would be so necessary to sustain brain , would also cause it decay. This is like an apple. Cut it , leave and it turns brown.

  • Will my brain be conscious? Can I think?

No idea at all.
This is what I found most difficult to find in web, exactly, as the doctor in the book was unsure about it. The question is not clearly answered and I have only two proposals  for that.
First, with the advanced technology there is the possibility of uploading the brain into a computer. “Virtual environments could be provided for stimulation. As long as the computers are kept running and in working condition, a brain kept “alive” in this manner could conceivably last for a very very long time. Potentially for hundreds of generations of normal biological humans.” (check here)
But I have to add here, that we can not teach any software program to feel, so the transplanted once brain  into a computer will base forever on the feelings it received before in the reality.

Second, I found the next video, where the doctor is talking about brain transplantation which was made with chimpanzees. As a result, the head with new brain resumes all brain function including blinking eyes and moving facial muscles, but – of course- no bodily movement was possible, because it is impossible to resume the spinal cord.

I would add, that we should not forget that brain is not a body, it is a container with mind, memories, feelings and so on. It is not tangible and I adhere to that brain will be consciousness even without a body. And if works,  people can make a good business out of it. It will cost a lot though, but definitely it will brings results. Good and bad. Think just what people can use it for: give a new life for disabled people or use in in the military interests…

  • What about soul? religion? ethics?

well…
May be one day scientists will prove that nothing of that exist at all. That God is your brain and your soul could be succesfully translantated into another body. Or may be not… and all such experiments will be criminalized, what is very doubtful.
Ethics? Has science ever have ethical or moral principles? I believe that never. Unless the science is the a part of knowledge, it is a power. Huge power.

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3 thoughts on “Die. But leave me your brain.

  1. Thank you for this wonderful post Marina!!!

    It was sooo interesting, especially because I’m interested in all this sci-fi like science stuff! And the plus was, that you were able to give us very interesting facts without appearing to be a science geek that only uses vocabulary normal people will not understand! Also, it was clear that you liked your topic and therefore, also liked to do some research! (from which we all benefited! )

    I personally loved that you started with Roald Dahl’s beautiful story! He is a genius and we already talked about him, so you know I love his writing!

    Maybe you want to check out this lovely video of ‘Futurama’. A lot of celebrities are still alive in their future because their are only a head in a jar.. 🙂

    Enjoy:

    Thank you, once again!

    Sophie

  2. Amazing Post work sweetie.
    Brian… I have no idea what to say…
    Transplanting my brain after my death somewhere in robot or thought computer.

    My soul is money and my religion is money as well.
    for better world and business I would love to give my brain to future generation.
    hahaha

    🙂

  3. Great article, some interesting observations and all of them in layman’s terms. As someone with absolutely no scientific background, it’s easier to grasp than most of the medical journals I’m used to skim through.

    Robert Dahl’s story is a great one and throughout the text I could not help but think about Ray Kurzweil’s and the story of his father. Dr. Kurzweil is undoubtedly one of the greatest minds of our time and he believes he will be able to bring back his father from the dead in the coming years. Indeed, this sounds like the words of a mad scientist but in a sense, it is a reality that is frighteningly nearer than we think. However, by the time we have the technology to perform brain transplants, advancements in Artificial Intelligence will be such that we will no longer need it! This video is of Ray Kurzweil explaining the coming Singularity and what it entails for mankind.

    The end of the article raises a number interesting philosophical questions. I strongly believe in your closing statement and thought it was dead on! Not only is science immensely powerful, i believe that it will ultimately end our kind. I see it as a sort of inevitability, we cannot and should not hinder progress and yet if we don’t….I guess God, whatever it is, only knows.

    Great job and keep on writing 🙂

    Jean

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