Can You Function Without a Brain?
Can You Function Without a Brain?
You need your brain to understand words, and you need your brain to decide whether or not you liked what you were hearing. You also need your brain to move your muscles. You need your brain to do a lot of stuff, and, without a brain, you can’t do much of anything at all. Right?
What if you’re headless?
But what would happened in the case of decapitation? It’s a macabre subject, I know. But look at the case of Mike, the chicken. In 1945, farmer Lloyd Olsen went out to grab a chicken for supper. He cut the chicken’s head off, and it didn’t die. Mike The Headless Chicken lived for another 18 months. He toured the country and surprised onlookers. He could walk and perch, and was fed by putting little drops of water or pieces of grain down his throat. But, here’s the thing … Mike The Headless Chicken’s actions were possible because even though he didn’t have much of what we would call a “head” left, he did have a bit of his brain stem. (Believe this, or not.)
If we want a clearer “no-brainer”, we’re going to have to look at an even more simple creature, the cockroach. These guys don’t even breath through their heads so, without one, they’re fine. Instead, they breath through holes all over their bodies. And instead of being controlled by a big, massive brain, they have little bundles of nerves, ganglia, throughout their body, and so even without any head parts, even when completely decapitated, a cockroach can live for weeks. It can walk around and respond to movement. Its only problem is that, without its head, it will eventually starve to death.
But Can YOU Function Without a Brain?
It is far different for human beings, though. Without a head and brain we die within seconds, if not instantly. Keep in mind, though, that with our heads intact, we are capable of some actions that don’t necessarily require the brain. These actions are called reflexes. When you snap your finger, your finger moves at about 20 mph. And a really big sneeze can expel air at nearly 30-40 mph. Nerve impulses, on the other hand, clock in at 250 mph. Sometimes that’s not even fast enough, like when you accidentally put your hand on a hot stove, and cells start to die very quickly. 250 mph isn’t quick enough. You can’t tell your brain what’s happening fast enough, so instead, your immediate reaction to pull away is mediated by other parts of your nervous system.
The same can be said for involuntary and unconscious processes. In a way, these unconscious, involuntary, or reflexive behaviors could be considered “no-brainers”, but not really because they still require that your brain be there, keeping you alive. So, what if you weren’t alive? Well, in your dead, brainless body, your muscle cells still contain a little bit of energy in the form of a ATP. Backyard Brains, on Youtube, demonstrates this with insect parts. This leg is no longer connected to a brain or a body, but energy remains in the cells. And so, researchers can detect electrical signals when the leg is touched, or even simply breathed on. (That popping sound you’re hearing is the spontaneous discharge rate of the living neurons in the still-living leg.) Freaky!
The muscle cells of a human limb would respond in just the same way. But you don’t need wires to observe behavior like this. Salt can also do the trick. The introduction of sodium ions can cause a process similar to an action-potential in a living animal. Salt added to these fresh frog legs makes them dance, though not for very long. The cells will eventually run out of energy, or simply decay. But, to be sure, there are many other brief candidates for no-brainers at the moment of death. For instance, muscles relaxing, causing a person to soil themselves. Technically, it’s a “no-brainer” but it’s a misconception that a corpse continues to grow fingernails and hair. It’s actually the skin, itself, shrinking as it dries, making hair and nails appear longer. Eww!
I hope you have enjoyed, “Can You Function Without a Brain? Can You Be a No-Brainer?“.
You may also enjoy: How Do You Know if Anything is Real? Where are your fingers?
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