Scientists May Have Found A Way To Preserve Your Memories After Death

Would you pay $10, 000 to upload your brain to the cloud?

Scientists May Have Found A Way To Preserve Your Memories After Death

“Our mission is to preserve your brain well enough to keep all its memories intact”

The start-up Nectome recently unveiled their controversial plan to create a mind-uploading service, which is, according to the MIT Technology Review, “100% fatal”. The idea being, for $10, 000, they preserve your brain, you die—then you watch on from beyond the grave, hoping  they one day develop the technology to make use of your cerebral matter…

There’s no proof memories can be retrieved from an embalmed-brain; but that hasn’t stopped 25 people from joining the waitlist. The procedure proposed is similar to that of existing euthanasia practices, with added aim of preserving their brain. As reported by The MIT Technology Review:

“The Nectome team demonstrated the seriousness of its intentions starting this January, when McIntyre, McCanna, and a pathologist they’d hired spent several weeks camped out at an Airbnb in Portland, Oregon, waiting to purchase a freshly deceased body”

The reason they’ve received so much attention (apart from the topic lending itself to click-bait headlines), is because in 2017 they won the Brain Preservation Foundation’s Small Mammal prize, for preserving every synaptic structure in a rabbit brain. This means people are taking them seriously when they talk about their next goal, which is to, “(Develop) a robust preservation protocol for human use, and demonstrate(s) perfect connectome preservation in a human brain in a research context”.

They talk big game about connectomes, synapses and unlocking a new era of neuroscience. However, the problem, according to Jens Foell (a neuroscientist at Florida State University), is that an embalmed brain would not contain, “The whole story,” of the information it processed whilst alive (reported by Live Science).

“Cell firing behaviour is determined by other things, including processes within the cells that are determined by proteins that are much smaller than synapses (and some of them are short-lived)”

This means that even if Nectome manage to perfectly map and preserve the human brain, the idea that this would enable us to recreate its memories or access the information it once held, is tenuous at best and a morbid-waste-of-money at worst.


Tellingly, as computational neuroscientist Sam Gershmn points out, if we can’t recreate the memories of a simple creature like the C Elegans (a type of roundworm), whose connectome we’ve known for more than 10 years, it’s unlikely such information will help us achieve this particular goal in humans.

That’s not to say the technology isn’t useful—just that expecting it to produce memories is a bit far fetched.

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