By Shankar Chennattu, Summer Times Staff Writer
If you have ever thought that there is a life after death, you might not totally be wrong. Scientists now know of ways to give dead brains new life.
After completing numerous experiments on pig organs, scientists at Yale University have recently discovered a method of resurrecting brains by restoring activity into individual post-mortem brain cells. The scientists have expanded the range of test subjects being used for this experiment. They have now tested the method on pig brains, mouse brains, and human brains. There have been several cases where some brains were kept alive for over two weeks at a stretch.
Dr. Nenad Sestan, an expert in developmental neurobiology and professor of neuroscience at Yale University, is the man who originally came up with the idea when thinking about how mammalian brains can be brought back to life. His ideas were specifically focused on the tree-shaped neurons that control speech, motor function, and thought. A lot of those ideas were beyond ridiculous at the time when he started contemplating the experiment. According to Dr. Sestan, they were so “wild” and “totally out there” that he was afraid of telling anyone else about them. He kept them secret from his bosses in Yale’s neuroscience department, the dean of the university’s medical school, and even his wife and kids. Since 2012, when he began the experiment with two of his lab partners, everything has been going right for him. On the negative side of the situation, there are still some potential circumstances in the experiment that the scientists are a little apprehensive of. Dr. Sestan says that he and the science team have doubts about whether the method can be used to treat brains with mental disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia. He says that they will utilize the resurrection method only on slices of cellularly revived brain tissue.
Now, this discovery has raised some questions not only in the area of science but also in the area of philosophy and religion. When do we truly die? Do we have a soul that lives within our physical bodies? What defines life? What defines death? Those are only a few of the many questions that can be evoked by this matter. This might challenge our understanding of what it means to die because of the countless theories that exist proposing how we can still be alive after our bodies pass away. Many followers of religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism believe that we will be reincarnated or reborn after we die; other religions such as Christianity and Islam suggest that we go to heaven or hell. Devotees of these spiritual groups and others that promote concepts of an afterlife might not change their view of death after this recent scientific development of resurrection. As of now, we do not officially know what happens to us after death so we go about the idea based purely on our beliefs and principles that we are raised with. This can obscure our ability to form opinions without bias.
So, since some people are uncertain of when we die, and other people are strongly certain that they know when we die, interviews were conducted with students and staff of Exeter Summer regarding what they think about the scientific resurrection of brains and what they personally believe is the meaning of death.
They had different beliefs and most of them actually shared a similar answer. One student who was atheist said that nothing will happen to us after we die. Another atheist said, “I am not sure that anything [in the future] would prolong human life permanently.” Three people who were religious all believed that we have a soul and it lives after our bodies die. “I’m very religious and I think that death is a separation from your mortal body and something different,” said Ricky Watson, a staff member at Exeter Summer.
“I think that we do have a soul, but it’s to an extent. And once we die, I think that it goes apart from us,” said Christian Ortiz, a student at Exeter Summer. When asked if brain resurrection would prolong life permanently in the future, Daniel Zhang said, “I definitely think it’s possible. And there might be even more unbelievable developments in a century from now.”
People here at Exeter seem to have mixed opinions about what happens when we die. More people said they believe in a soul that lives after our physical death. All of those who said so were religious but reassured their honesty by putting their family beliefs aside and seemed to believe it from their heart. And those who said that they think nothing happens after death had differing opinions on the future of scientific resurrection. At the end of the day, nobody is really right or wrong.