Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Scientists Have Successfully Frozen And Thawed A Brain

When I was growing up, I always thought the future would kind of drop all at once. One day, we would just have bubble cars, jet packs, phasers, universal translators, and all the gadgets that made science fiction so shiny and wonderful.
Of course, progress doesn't happen all at once; it happens step-by-step, although it does pick up the pace as new inventions make breakthroughs easier and easier. But to find yourself in that dream-filled future, you'd have to take one epic Rip Van Winkle nap and wake up to it all.

And yes, scientists are working on that, too — and they've just taken a big, exciting step towards their goal.

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Freezing people and reviving them is the stuff of science fiction, a useful plot device at best — oh, and it's a real industry that's been around for 50 years.

Clearly, any successes have been incremental because nobody has been frozen and brought back to life yet.

But there's a dedicated group of people who see a future in freezing our brains to cheat death and extend our lifespans.

They just can't all agree on how to do that, or what it will look like if and when they achieve it. However, the Brain Preservation Foundation did recently announce a major breakthrough.

A pair of scientists successfully froze and thawed a rabbit brain, with no sign of damage.

Typically, the freezing process damages cells. But Gregory Fahy and Robert McIntyre of 21st Century Medicine in California came up with a process that would allow the rabbit's brain to stay perfectly frozen for "centuries." All the individual connections between the brain's neurons were preserved.

It's another incremental step. Even though the rabbit's brain wasn't functional after it was thawed, the process demonstrated that "the structure of the delicate synaptic circuitry of the brain could be preserved over indefinite time spans,” according to Kenneth Hayworth, director of the Brain Preservation Foundation.

That doesn't mean that a row of tanks filled with person-sicles just passing time until the future catches up with them is around the corner.

Although the implications are massive, there's still a lot of work to be done. And there are a couple of big questions to answer...

There are two schools of thought about how to revive people-sicles: biologically or through brain-uploading.

With biological revival, you end up with the same body and brain you were born with, much like Austin Powers. However, the current method for freezing a body replaces the blood in the brain with a highly toxic fluid that protects the tissue from the cold. There's no going back and no do-over. 

The trouble with brain-uploading is that we don't really know what makes us, well, us. Although at present neuroscientists believe we really are only patterns and information, there are a couple of options — scanning the brain, or destroying it slice by tiny slice — for obtaining that pattern and information but no guarantee that either would work. But the fact that the rabbit's brain still had all the connections preserved is promising. In theory, in the future a process for copying that information and pasting it onto a new brain might be possible.

But if it's possible, if you upload your brain and future scientists put the pattern and information that was you into a new body, will it be you, or will it be a clone of you, an empty shell without your sparkling personality and all the intangibles that make you, well, you?

And that's a question that doesn't have any easy answers. It might be you, or it might be a simulation of you, or a sketchy photocopy of you. Nobody knows.

What's more, even if identity survived brain uploading, it would be difficult for anybody who went through the process to prove that they were, in fact, themselves.

Do you just take someone's word for that they are who they say they are? Would they even end up conscious, or would they be zombies?

For all the unanswered questions, the end goal of cryonics will keep people searching for answers.

It's hard not to want to see what the world will look like in 100 years, or 500, and this is easily the most viable life extension technology anybody is studying at the moment.

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Author: verified_user