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Is there a neuroscientist in the house?

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Is there a neuroscientist in the house?
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AkamiaUser avatarPosts: 151Joined: Thu Sep 01, 2016 11:41 pmLocation: Alaska Gender: Time Lord

Is there a neuroscientist in the house?

Is there a neuroscientist in the house? Maybe a cryobiologist and a medical doctor too? If not, does anyone know where I can get in touch with one?

I'm part of a Discord server full of transhumanists. Many of them are also cryonicists; I understand there's substantial overlap between the two groups to the point where I don't believe I've met a cryonicist that wasn't also a transhumanist.

Anyway, I've gotten into a mildly heated discussion with one of the server's cryonics proponents. Far as I'm concerned, cryonics is a scam. We've been arguing for hours. Toward the end, he's made a claim that I decided required further investigation.

Cryonicist wrote:Electrical activity in the brain isn’t transmitted by electrons as it is in an electric circuit. Instead the electrical activity is transmitted by the diffusion of ions down their concentration gradient. When an organism is cooled, the ions slow down and eventually stop moving (vitrification). They are thus preserved in the same positions that were in when the cooling was started. When the organism is rewarmed, the ions resume travelling down their initial concentration gradients.
This mechanism is the same in all organisms with brains.
So theoretically, if you were to perfectly vitrify a human brain, without ice/fracture/cryoprotectant toxicity damage, the brain would restart by itself upon rewarming.


I want to know if this claim holds water and, more importantly, if it applies to trying to preserve a human for eons, waiting for future tech that may or may not successfully resuscitate them or upload them into some badass supercomputer.
The very thing that gives us humans our advanced cognitive abilities can also be our greatest weakness.
Sat Dec 01, 2018 11:27 pm
CollecemallPosts: 396Joined: Tue Aug 19, 2014 1:53 am

Post Re: Is there a neuroscientist in the house?

I don't fit any of the descriptions you asked for but I read a pretty detailed breakdown of this stuff a few weeks ago. I'll see if I can dig it back up. Basically they all concluded it's extremely unlikely that anyone frozen today will be brought back. The process they use to freeze people isn't anywhere near good enough and these experts expect a bunch of mush to be all they will end up with.
"Every man is a creature of the age in which he lives, and few are able to raise themselves above the ideas of their time."
“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” ~~Voltaire
Sun Dec 02, 2018 12:09 am
AkamiaUser avatarPosts: 151Joined: Thu Sep 01, 2016 11:41 pmLocation: Alaska Gender: Time Lord

Post Re: Is there a neuroscientist in the house?

Collecemall wrote:I don't fit any of the descriptions you asked for but I read a pretty detailed breakdown of this stuff a few weeks ago. I'll see if I can dig it back up. Basically they all concluded it's extremely unlikely that anyone frozen today will be brought back. The process they use to freeze people isn't anywhere near good enough and these experts expect a bunch of mush to be all they will end up with.
I’d love to get at that.


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The very thing that gives us humans our advanced cognitive abilities can also be our greatest weakness.
Sun Dec 02, 2018 12:31 am
SparhafocPosts: 2627Joined: Fri Jun 23, 2017 6:48 am

Post Re: Is there a neuroscientist in the house?

Akamia wrote:
Cryonicist wrote:Electrical activity in the brain isn’t transmitted by electrons as it is in an electric circuit. Instead the electrical activity is transmitted by the diffusion of ions down their concentration gradient. When an organism is cooled, the ions slow down and eventually stop moving (vitrification). They are thus preserved in the same positions that were in when the cooling was started. When the organism is rewarmed, the ions resume travelling down their initial concentration gradients.
This mechanism is the same in all organisms with brains.
So theoretically, if you were to perfectly vitrify a human brain, without ice/fracture/cryoprotectant toxicity damage, the brain would restart by itself upon rewarming.


I want to know if this claim holds water and, more importantly, if it applies to trying to preserve a human for eons, waiting for future tech that may or may not successfully resuscitate them or upload them into some badass supercomputer.



Firstly, the premise of the claim is wrong, but it is subtly wrong. Electrical activity is not transmitted by the 'diffusion of ions' but by the interaction of charged ions via their electrostatic fields across a (selectively) impermeable lipid membrane which consequently acts like a capacitor with the lipids as a dielectric and the ions as a charge.

The problem here is that all of this is mediated by various types of proteins, and those proteins are a) susceptible to damage from being frozen and b) are produced by the biological body which can be damaged by being frozen.

If it was all as cut and dry as the guy claims, then the world in which we lived would be very different. Many diseases could be treated simply by freezing and unfreezing the patient, thereby killing off the problem (say a virus) but readily restoring the human body and brain as the guy suggests.

So if this theoretically works, why hasn't it been shown empirically? That's something I think the guy needs to answer. Where are the numerous instances of humans being frozen and restored with no loss to brain function?
"a reprehensible human being"
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Sun Dec 02, 2018 5:19 am
AkamiaUser avatarPosts: 151Joined: Thu Sep 01, 2016 11:41 pmLocation: Alaska Gender: Time Lord

Post Re: Is there a neuroscientist in the house?

Sparhafoc wrote:
Akamia wrote:
I want to know if this claim holds water and, more importantly, if it applies to trying to preserve a human for eons, waiting for future tech that may or may not successfully resuscitate them or upload them into some badass supercomputer.



Firstly, the premise of the claim is wrong, but it is subtly wrong. Electrical activity is not transmitted by the 'diffusion of ions' but by the interaction of charged ions via their electrostatic fields across a (selectively) impermeable lipid membrane which consequently acts like a capacitor with the lipids as a dielectric and the ions as a charge.

The problem here is that all of this is mediated by various types of proteins, and those proteins are a) susceptible to damage from being frozen and b) are produced by the biological body which can be damaged by being frozen.

If it was all as cut and dry as the guy claims, then the world in which we lived would be very different. Many diseases could be treated simply by freezing and unfreezing the patient, thereby killing off the problem (say a virus) but readily restoring the human body and brain as the guy suggests.

So if this theoretically works, why hasn't it been shown empirically? That's something I think the guy needs to answer. Where are the numerous instances of humans being frozen and restored with no loss to brain function?

Well, apparently vitrification is the "safest" form of freezing, as "demonstrated" when a bunch of C. elegans survived it for two weeks straight. Even without vitrification, similar worms (may or may not be the same species) apparently survived 40,000 years on ice somehow.

I know it's asinine to imply that this would work on humans, but I have trouble explaining to this person why. The apparent fact that suspended animation has apparently been performed on pigs at 10ºC isn't helping matters.

As for restarting the brain, that's not exactly on these people's agenda. They're in the "mind uploading" camp where a living brain is apparently optional. They expect a society from eons in the future will be able to resurrect these frozen people as AI constructs. That's a whole other can of worms, though, and I decided to deal with cryonics first, as that's a more immediate concern considering there are people being put on ice right here in the present.

Whatever the case, the type of freezing apparently matters here. This guy's gonna want evidence that vitrification specifically won't work for what he's hoping it will work for. And don't bring up Alcor's fracturing problem; he knows:
Cryonicist wrote:Fracturing is only a problem with vitrification. But there are ways around it. For example 1. You cool the sample to the glass transition temperature but no further. 2. You cool the sample very slowly when past the glass transition temperature.
I know this because 1. I read it in a paper, and 2. I’ve personally vitrified samples in liquid nitrogen without fracturing them.
Sadly Alcor does neither of these things currently.
But I think they’re planing to do method 1 eventually.

I should have asked him what paper, but at this point in the conversation, I was getting tired of dealing with him.
The very thing that gives us humans our advanced cognitive abilities can also be our greatest weakness.
Sun Dec 02, 2018 3:57 pm
he_who_is_nobodyBloggerUser avatarPosts: 3499Joined: Tue Feb 24, 2009 1:36 amLocation: Albuquerque, New Mexico Gender: Male

Post Re: Is there a neuroscientist in the house?

I could have sworn that Steven Novella covered this in his blog, but I cannot find anything about cryonics. He might have talked about it on The Skeptics Guide to the Universe.

Anyways drop him a line about this. He is a neuroscientist and would be far better versed about this topic than anyone else. Perhaps your asking will produce a blog post about this topic.
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Sun Dec 02, 2018 7:27 pm
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AkamiaUser avatarPosts: 151Joined: Thu Sep 01, 2016 11:41 pmLocation: Alaska Gender: Time Lord

Post Re: Is there a neuroscientist in the house?

he_who_is_nobody wrote:I could have sworn that Steven Novella covered this in his blog, but I cannot find anything about cryonics. He might have talked about it on The Skeptics Guide to the Universe.

Anyways drop him a line about this. He is a neuroscientist and would be far better versed about this topic than anyone else. Perhaps your asking will produce a blog post about this topic.

Thanks. I've sent him an email through his book's website.
The very thing that gives us humans our advanced cognitive abilities can also be our greatest weakness.
Sun Dec 02, 2018 7:47 pm
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