| Wednesday July 23rd 2014

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Can a brain live for a minute after decapitation?


Francisco de Goya - The French PenaltySince I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by 19th century guillotine anecdotes about severed heads winking, attempting to speak, or smiling. The “Guillotine” entry in Wikipedia has a section on Living heads and The Straight Dope has investigated the topic as well. And now, two new scientific studies also push on the question of whether the brain is still “alive” after decapitation…

Almost a minute after a rat’s head is severed from its body, an eerie shudder of activity ripples through the animal’s brain. (Research published in January by Radboud University Nijmegen neuroscientists suggest that this) post-decapitation wave marks the border between life and death. But the phenomenon can be explained by electrical changes that, in some cases, are reversible, researchers (from the University of Twente in Enschede, the Netherlands) report online July 13 in PLoS ONE.

Whether a similar kind of brain wave happens in humans, and if so, whether it is inextricably tied to death could have important implications. An unambiguous marker could help doctors better decide when to diagnose brain death, knowledge that could give clarity to loved ones and boost earlier organ donation.


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One Response to “Can a brain live for a minute after decapitation?”

  1. John Smith says:

    Bet they will adopt this quick without much testing.. All those valuable body parts cannot be allowed to go to waste after all… What WILL happen is that one day they will be dicing someone up after they are supposedly dead an the dead dude will wake up a very surprised person…

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