Re: Head Transplantation and Beheading

Anders Sandberg (
07 Nov 1997 18:47:24 +0100

Mike Coward <> writes:

> There are always ways to get by problems.
> How about transplanting the spine with the head.

But then you would need to reattach all the spinal roots to the
transplanted spinal cord; you have switched one very hard problem for
another (plus some extra surgical overhead).

> How about growing a new tailored spinal cord for implantation?

You need to interface the old and new nervous system; this might
perhaps be done using artificial neural precursors and neural growth

> How about cybernetics?

With cybernetics, who would want a head transplant? :-)

> If I did have no limbs,
> what would happen to the parts of the brain
> that used to control them?

Other areas take over the use of the cortex; this can be quite large
changes if they occur early or during periods of neural
plasticity. One fun paper is

author = {L. G. Cohen and P. Celnik and A. Pascual-Leone and B. Corwell and L. Falz and J. Dambrosia and M. Honda and N. Sadato and C. Gerloff and M. D. Catala and M. Hallett},
title = {Functional relevance of cross-modal plasticity in blind humans},
journal = {Nature},
volume = {389},
number = {6647},
pages = {180--3},
month = {Sep 11},
year = {1997}

where they found that the visual cortex of a group of blind people was
used when reading braille with their hands.

> Now think about my whole body control area
> being taken over by my head control area.
> Imagine the processing power,
> a full brain used almost entirely for thinking!

Unfortunately this doesn't work well for simply psychological
reasons. We are built to have a large sensory throughput, and by
removing most of the body you lose a lot of the feedback loops, some
of which are important for emotions and motivation. My guess is that
the way to go is to *extend* the mind and body, not the reverse. More
cortex to the people! :-)

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y