COLLAR POPPIN, HEAD SWAPPIN
You know me, I like to think how we are our brain and what that means in terms of who we really are and how far that goes. What if it could extend past death? What if we could keep the most precious thing about us going after the body gives out? Instead of loosing great thinkers and inventors, or loved ones… we could take what really makes them, them and just plop it in another body? A brain transplant. Well, this is no where near a novel idea.
Not so long ago in the 1970’s, Harvard trained neuroscientist/surgeon (specifically in hemispherectomy), Dr. Robert J. White was inspired by (or rather) competing with Russian surgeons and after a series of failed brain transplant experiments with monkeys, preformed the first successful head transplant.
We all know organs can be harvested, and keep in mind the first successful kidney transplant was only in ‘54, so why not the brain? Theoretically, all you have to do is keep the brain chemically oxygenated & induce hypothermia during the surgery and mind those cranial nerves so the brain can see, hear, taste, etc when it’s in its new home. Ah, but that’s a problem - we need those cranial nerves in tact and since no one knows how to repair nerve damage, we need the whole head to come along. So, we are really talking about a head transplant. The next problem is severing the brain stem from the spinal cord leads to paralysis since they can’t be fused. But we’d still technically have our Einsteins, right? Well, not so fast.
Although the rhesus monkey head transplant was a “success”, meaning the monkey was conscious and alert… he could think, see, smell, hear, taste and even showed aggression (with good reason even if they are naturally a bit cranky)… he only lived less than 2 days. Still, if you can ignore the ethics, it’s pretty amazing.
Dr. White… laid back. Jan. 21, 1926 - Sept. 16 2010
Why this matters: While Dr. White is commonly remembered as an unethical monkey head swapping, mad scientist - it is also interesting to note he was a rather innovative neuroscientist who ”performed over 10,000 brain surgeries in his lifetime, authored more than 900 publications, and developed brain cooling techniques that revolutionized modern brain surgery. White even received the Humanitarian Award from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons in 1997.” via, image, screen shot/video.