Brain transplant?

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Brain transplant?

Postby Asparagus on January 11th, 2018, 12:37 pm 

So it did come to pass that a distraught family whose loved one had suffered grave traumatic injury, did ask if we could do a brain transplant. We can't. But what if we could?

Transplant kidneys, bone marrow, hearts, lungs, etc., and it's the same person post surgery.

Would it be the same person after a brain transplant? I think most of us would say no, but what does that say about our assumptions? Do we assume a person is his or her memories? It would seem that you are the thing that has those memories, not the memories themselves.

I guess this question would go to psychologists. What exactly is the psyche? On the other hand, what would Kripke say? I think he would say your name picks you out in all possible worlds in which you exist. Do you exist in the one in which you had a brain transplant? Same question, different angle.
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Re: Brain transplant?

Postby Braininvat on January 11th, 2018, 1:15 pm 

Seems like a philosophical question that science has stepped in and answered pretty definitely. Personal identity seems to be strongly linked to the neurological correlates of consciousness. Look at a late-stage Alzheimer's patient. Without the neural network that supported their cognition and memories, their identity has sloughed off and a vacant shell is what remains. A brain transplant continues the life and selfhood of the donor, not the recipient.

That said, I get a kick out of Derek Parfit's thought experiment, where one's body is gradually replaced by the cells of Marilyn Monroe. We had a thread on that a few years ago but can't find ATM.
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Re: Brain transplant?

Postby Braininvat on January 11th, 2018, 1:17 pm 

In fact, would not it be more accurate to call the operation "a full-body transplant"? Nomenclature matters here.
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Re: Brain transplant?

Postby SciameriKen on January 11th, 2018, 1:24 pm 

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Re: Brain transplant?

Postby Asparagus on January 11th, 2018, 4:31 pm 

Braininvat » January 11th, 2018, 1:15 pm wrote:Seems like a philosophical question that science has stepped in and answered pretty definitely. Personal identity seems to be strongly linked to the neurological correlates of consciousness. Look at a late-stage Alzheimer's patient. Without the neural network that supported their cognition and memories, their identity has sloughed off and a vacant shell is what remains. A brain transplant continues the life and selfhood of the donor, not the recipient.

That said, I get a kick out of Derek Parfit's thought experiment, where one's body is gradually replaced by the cells of Marilyn Monroe. We had a thread on that a few years ago but can't find ATM.

But not so fast. Your brain changes day by day, but you remain the same person. This shows that it's illogical to say you are your brain or some particular state of your brain.
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Re: Brain transplant?

Postby Asparagus on January 11th, 2018, 4:32 pm 


Any sufficiently advanced society is indistinguishable from a science fiction novel.
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Re: Brain transplant?

Postby Braininvat on January 11th, 2018, 5:04 pm 

Asparagus » January 11th, 2018, 1:31 pm wrote:
Braininvat » January 11th, 2018, 1:15 pm wrote:Seems like a philosophical question that science has stepped in and answered pretty definitely. Personal identity seems to be strongly linked to the neurological correlates of consciousness. Look at a late-stage Alzheimer's patient. Without the neural network that supported their cognition and memories, their identity has sloughed off and a vacant shell is what remains. A brain transplant continues the life and selfhood of the donor, not the recipient.

That said, I get a kick out of Derek Parfit's thought experiment, where one's body is gradually replaced by the cells of Marilyn Monroe. We had a thread on that a few years ago but can't find ATM.

But not so fast. Your brain changes day by day, but you remain the same person. This shows that it's illogical to say you are your brain or some particular state of your brain.


If mind is a dynamic process, then why can't it be changing constantly, and why can't "the self" have a dynamic process as its referent? I don't understand the philosophical concern with some sort of unchanging and static "essence." We don't expect the Adriatic Sea to stand completely still and never exchange waters or have currents or flowing estuaries. We can name it and identify it, even though it is ever shifting and had different water molecules from year to year. Nor do we require some Adriatic ghost or watery homunculus to lurk in its depths, in order to validate its reality. As with my brain there is dynamic change and also continuity. With the brain, certain synaptic connections keep the continuity of memory, of who we are, and I see no reason that brain could not continue to do that process in another cranium. It might feel weird to be Bob waking up in Alice's body, but if we saw the operation performed, we wouldn't likely contradict Bob's assertion that it was him inside there, especially when he recounted events that only Bob and we could know about. And if Alice's brain had been tossed in the medical waste bin, or sold to a novelty meats store, we would be grieving for her loss.
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Re: Brain transplant?

Postby Asparagus on January 11th, 2018, 6:16 pm 

@ Braininvat

So you're saying that whoever has Bob's memory is Bob?
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Re: Brain transplant?

Postby SciameriKen on January 11th, 2018, 9:41 pm 

Asparagus » Thu Jan 11, 2018 8:32 pm wrote:

Any sufficiently advanced society is indistinguishable from a science fiction novel.



"Fantasy takes the impossible and makes it possible, Science fiction takes the possible and makes it impossible." - Rod Serling
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Re: Brain transplant?

Postby Braininvat on January 11th, 2018, 11:24 pm 

Asparagus » January 11th, 2018, 3:16 pm wrote:@ Braininvat

So you're saying that whoever has Bob's memory is Bob?


We're headed for the Teleportation conundrum, aren't we? Or Don Davidson's Swamp Man experiment. All that gnarly Kripke-Putnam stuff where we have a causal theoretic basis for naming Bob. Kripke would not want us to say Bob is Bob just because he has Bob's memories, right? Could be a duplicate made by the transporter and the original Bob is dead and remembers no more. Duplicate Bob has no authentic causal connection to his memories of that year he lived in Wichita ( it seemed more like two years, but never mind...).

Guess I am more information-theoretic. The pattern of Bobness in a brain is all that's needed. Original Bob's experiences are the cause of duplicate Bob having those memories. Multiple Bobs are possible (see David Brin's "Kiln People," for an amusing take on this idea). Even Alice-bodied Bobs! Bobs with boobs. Sorry.
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Re: Brain transplant?

Postby doogles on January 12th, 2018, 5:53 am 

I know I'll regret buying into this thread because it's listed in the field of Anything Philosophy. And my observation of Philosophy Topics on this site is that none of them go anywhere because they all finish up going around in circles - forever.

I like to think I'm a realist. The reality of my life is that if ever I go to 50th reunions, I always wear a self-created name tag that states "I USED TO BE DOUG FENWICK" with a small photograph of me at the time the re-union is celebrating. "DOUG FENWICK" is in a font 3 times the size of "I USED TO BE". From year to year since birth I have been an evolving and changing person knowledgably, physically and emotionally.

The character Bob in this post is also dynamically changing mentally, physically and emotionally from the moment he is born. If he gets a brain transplant, who knows what Bob (given that the sensory nerve endings are still the same) will finish up as.

Firstly, I believe that the operation of a complete brain transplant is impossible, in spite of the fact that an Italian doctor - Sergio Canavera - believes it is possible with enough staff and time. Apart from the intricacies of connecting the sensory and motor nerve outlets and ALL of the blood vessel connections to their appropriate others, the parasympathetic and sympathetic neuronal system have to be connected to the rest of the body 100% completely in order to maintain normal circulatory, hormonal, digestive, urinary functions exactly as they were in Bob (and I emphasise here 'At the time he was transplanted') and for Bob to retain the same 'feelings' he had before surgery. Without the same 'feelings' (the complexes of feedback from every soft tissue proprioceptor in our bodies) Bob is no longer Bob.

All of the 6th sense proprioceptive nerve connections to the brain from every soft tissue in his body would have to be connected successfully for the new Bob to be able to operate holistically as a complete body (as Braininvat pointed out). The odds of every severed nerve tract in the donor spinal cord connecting successfully and functionally with its 'other' seems to me to be unlikely at odds of infinity).

And then of course, even if the memory residues in the donor's brain stayed intact, they would NOT be the identical same memories that Bob had.

Just pull out Bob's life support system and give him a respectful funeral.
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Re: Brain transplant?

Postby Asparagus on January 12th, 2018, 2:39 pm 

Braininvat wrote: Kripke would not want us to say Bob is Bob just because he has Bob's memories, right?

I don't think Kripke addresses that. He assumes we know who we're talking about. If we don't, I guess our ambivalence invades every possible world associated with our statements.


Braininvat wrote:The pattern of Bobness in a brain is all that's needed.

There are a couple of things I like about this answer. It means that gender, ethnicity, disability, etc. don't define people. It also means my values would travel with me if my brain ended up in a neo-Nazi.

Braininvat wrote:(see David Brin's "Kiln People," for an amusing take on this idea). .

Thanks for the reference!
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Re: Brain transplant?

Postby Asparagus on January 12th, 2018, 2:45 pm 

doogles wrote:
And then of course, even if the memory residues in the donor's brain stayed intact, they would NOT be the identical same memories that Bob had.


Why not?
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Re: Brain transplant?

Postby doogles on January 13th, 2018, 6:23 am 

Asparagus » Fri Jan 12, 2018 2:45 pm wrote:
doogles wrote:
And then of course, even if the memory residues in the donor's brain stayed intact, they would NOT be the identical same memories that Bob had.


Why not?


I'm not sure at what level of understanding I can answer this Asparagus. I'll start by saying that the odds of the donor and receiver having the exact same experiences during their relative lifetimes would preclude them from having the exact same memories related to those experiences. Of course the assumption I am making in the above statement is that memories are a basic ingredient of each of our personalities.

But somehow, I have a feeling that you are on different wavelength from me relative to that question.
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Re: Brain transplant?

Postby Asparagus on January 13th, 2018, 8:59 am 

@doogles
I think you're on to something there. The neoNazi goes home with my brain, but the person who is joyously welcomed to the Klan rally, how does that person process my memories?
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Re: Brain transplant?

Postby Braininvat on January 13th, 2018, 10:57 am 

Are hearts and livers and elbows also seats of consciousness?
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Re: Brain transplant?

Postby Asparagus on January 13th, 2018, 11:15 am 

Braininvat » January 13th, 2018, 10:57 am wrote:Are hearts and livers and elbows also seats of consciousness?

Don't know. Are we using the "can you be conscious without it" test?
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Re: Brain transplant?

Postby Braininvat on January 13th, 2018, 11:28 am 

Heh. I just meant, regarding

The neoNazi goes home with my brain, but the person who is joyously welcomed to the Klan rally, how does that person process my memories?


If we accepted brain as the neurological basis of consciousness, then it would not matter whose former body it resided in. The formerly neoNazi body would not be sneaking in white nationalist thoughts by way of the gall bladder, right? Or are you hinting at a different metaphysical basis, like those folks who think a heart transplant will confer some of the feelings of the donor?
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