Isolated brain

r norman rsn_ at
Thu Mar 17 20:53:54 EST 2005

On Thu, 17 Mar 2005 17:09:58 -0800, "HCN" <hcn at> wrote:

>"tech27" <tech27 at> wrote in message 
>news:wuo_d.54066$NC6.35676 at
>> "Bruno Panetta" <bpanetta at> wrote in message 
>> news:1111100184.052250.309800 at
>>>I have recently read Mary Roach's book "Stiff". Here she mentions the
>>> experiments of Robert White, who implanted brains of monkeys and dogs
>>> into other animals to keep the brains alive, even though they were not
>>> connected to their original bodies anymore.
>>> See
>>> Now, I have three questions on this:
>>> 1. What would an isolated brain "feel" under such circumstances? Would
>>> it feel the illusion of a body, and/or sensory data? Or would it be in
>>> a constant dreaming state?
>> Probably more like a drug induced stupor, similar to the way you must go 
>> through life. You're reading FICTION, idiot.
>Are you saying that Mary Roach's book _Stiff_ is fiction?  It is this book:
> ... The Library of 
>Congress seems to think it is non-fiction:

No, unfortunately it is not fiction.

Google on "Robert White brain transplant".  Note: it is TRANSplant,
not IMplant.  Brain implants are a whole different story.

It is generally agreed that White's work was grotesque and medically
inappropriate.  You can't transplant the brain -- it would be totally
disconnected from any aspect of the body and would be impossible to
communicate with.  What White did was essentially keep the head intact
and transplant the rest of the body.  The brain retained its
connections to the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, etc and apparently the
monkeys could see, hear, smell, and taste afterwards.

The result for a human transplant would be probably very similar to a
person with a high spinal cord injury with no control or sensation
whatsoever of anything below the neck.  Doing that to someone whose
brain was originally connected to a functional body would be so far
beyond the boundaries of any ethical consideration as to be beyond
discussion -- it would be at least the equivalent of deliberately
causing a high spinal injury.  Dr. White's argument is that people who
already have such severe injuries and whose bodies are deteriorating
(although they cannot feel it) would benefit from a "body transplant"
to keep the life support systems (circulatory, respiratory, excretory)
going and so help support the brain and head.  His argument is that
the brain/head combination would be no worse off after the body
transplant than it was before.  

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