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Still Waters

Can a Severed Head Live On?

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Centuries-old tales have described severed heads that seemed to live on for a few seconds — blinking, changing expressions, even attempting to speak.

http://www.livescien...-head-live.html

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Ive heard this before, at school they told us stories of when royalty was decapitated for some reason (I dont remember who) Their faces twitched and bodies would move due to the sudden cut and reaction in the nervous system.

Heads living aside from their bodies reminds me of Futuramas heads in jars. Nixon..

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Interesting topic. I think most likely any movement would be due to random nerve firing, but in rare cases, who knows?

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It takes about 3 minutes before the brain dies due to lack of oxygen, not seconds. Most likely the intensive pain from the severed nerve strands cause a blackout. I wager that a head, given the proper nutrition and oxygen could live quite a while without the body.

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It takes about 3 minutes before the brain dies due to lack of oxygen, not seconds. Most likely the intensive pain from the severed nerve strands cause a blackout. I wager that a head, given the proper nutrition and oxygen could live quite a while without the body.

Instant death can occur from shock and also rapid drop in blood pressure, but I agree it could be possible in rare cases

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They do on Futurama.

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Well, if Celine Dion is to be believed, hearts can live on, so why not heads?

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The sudden loss of blood pressure would result in instant unconsciousness.

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that does seem physiologically right.

at least until its attached to a robot body

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Yeah I think decapitation is pretty much instant death though perhaps not in extremely rare cases. Surgical removal? Don't know if we are quite there yet

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I've seen reports of the existence of brain cells (not nerve cells) in the stomach and lungs, so the brain function may extend further than we actually imagine (I don't think anyone has an answer as to whey they are there).

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For the most part blood's job is delivering oxygen. Cells don't instantly die when their flow of oxygenated blood is interrupted. If this was the case then a heart attack would be non-recoverable or at least involve massive tissue death every time. I've read brains lose coherent function in around 60-180 seconds when the flow of blood stops. I don't think it is going to be that much different from massive exsanguination. Now, one thing that might come into play, but I don't think the force in a guillotine can do it, is shock wave disruption. It is possible/likely that in some cases of gun shots damage occurs from a shockwave sent into the body. There are instance of organ damage and bruising found in autopsies and necropsies located far from the path of travel of the bullet.

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When the blood pressure gets too low you automatically pas out. Death would be later but there would be no conscious dying.

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Yes, from decapitation or exsanguination you would not be conscious when you actually died. But that is not what we are talking about here, at least in part. I took the discussion to be more of a can you be conscious for some amount of time greater than zero when you are decapitated. And yes, absolutely you can.

You do pass out when your blood pressure gets low enough, at lest that's true in cases over a long enough period of time. You pass out when some of your brain cells don't have enough to keep functioning properly. But the cellular deoxygenating process is NOT instantaneous and losing consciousness is not a required, immediate effect of decapitation by any physiology I know of.

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I agree though in the case of decapitation the blood loss would be extremely rapid and I think could cause shock

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I agree though in the case of decapitation the blood loss would be extremely rapid and I think could cause shock

*ahem* I would say they are strong cadidates for hypovolemic shock, yes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shock_(circulatory)#Hypovolemic

But seriously, it's not like I think a decap could do higher math or quote Voltaire or anything like that. I think they have just enough coherent, conscious brain function to realize something really, really bad just happened and maybe have a few deep seated regrets float to the top of their mental stack.

A lot of the claims for why they couldn't seemed more based on a long term event when you still have a body attached. What I am saying is that each cell in the brain has a little tiny bit of oxygen in it, just enough to keep working the way it should for maybe a few seconds up to maybe a minute or three. I think during that brief window a person can have no head (actually, i guess no body would be more accurate) and still be able to think in some form or another. Now, is that thinking going to be AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH IIIII HUUUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRTTTTTTTTT!!!!!!! or something, you know, deeper? Couldn't tell you. But the old chop doesn't turn a person's brain off like a light switch, for sure! Heck, there is still electrical activity even after the cells are effectively deoxygenated. What does that mean? Probably no rational, coherent thoughts... but does that let the sense of self and some sort of sensorium still exist? I wouldn't want to conclusively say no.

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I'm able to pass out just by lying still for awhile and then jumping up and running upstairs. I think that's kinda why I think blood pressure is so important in maintaining consciousness. Keep in mind I'm 70m and Asian and obese and take water pills.

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Keep in mind I'm 70m and Asian

Right, but thats like 35 for most people

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I concede your point as I have no better info and am just guessing. Kind of freaks me out though the thought of being decapitated and living for a while to ponder your fate

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Well I suppose most people are aware of what has happened when a bullet smashes into their chest, but I don't think they have enough time to come to believe it. When it gets tough is when you are dying slowly from something.

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Well I suppose most people are aware of what has happened when a bullet smashes into their chest, but I don't think they have enough time to come to believe it. When it gets tough is when you are dying slowly from something.

Yeah one to the liver when you were unable to get help would be bad

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I'm able to pass out just by lying still for awhile and then jumping up and running upstairs. I think that's kinda why I think blood pressure is so important in maintaining consciousness. Keep in mind I'm 70m and Asian and obese and take water pills.

For sure. But even that is not an instantaneous process, usually. I think for low blood pressure induced unconsciousness you still have at least a few seconds up to a good 10-20 seconds to realize you are going to go down unless you don't sit/lay down.

edit:

Also, look at you being all venerable and stuff. =P

Edited by cacoseraph
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I'm not a monk but I look like one except for the suit.

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I'm not a monk but I look like one except for the suit.

How do you look in orange? I might have to get you a christmas present =P

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