When a brain transplant is performed, does the patient lose his or her memories? — Abby, Shoreham, N.Y.
Marshall Brain Answers:
We are still a few years away from the first human brain transplant or head transplant, although there have been experiments in animals. The following videos are not for the weak-stomached, but they do show that experiments have been done in sustaining severed brains and heads, and even transplanting heads, for several decades:
The biggest barrier right now to performing a successful brain or head transplant is reconnecting the nerve bundles. We still have great difficulty healing a severed spinal chord caused by injury, much less one caused by transplant. Once that problem gets solved, however, transplants might become more common.
As for memories, there is no reason to suspect that there would be any loss of memories after a transplant. The brain can sometimes experience amnesia because of physical trauma, but there is no reason to expect a brain or head to experience trauma during a transplant.