Old, Weird Tech: Severed Head Life Support System Edition

More

HeadSever2.jpg

In 1908, Charles Guthrie was able to successfully amputate one dog's head and sew it onto the neck of another dog, rerouting the blood flow so that the animal had two (somewhat) functioning heads, according to Mary Roach's Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. "[T]oo much time (twenty minutes had elapsed between the beheading and the moment the circulation was restored) for the dog head and brain to regain much function," Roach explained.

HeadSever1.jpgTo solve that problem, scientists, 77 years later, patented a device for perfusing an animal head. "This invention involves a device, referred to herein as a 'cabinet,' which provides physical and biochemical support for an animal's head which has been 'discorporated' (i.e., severed from its body)," the patent's abstract explains. "This device can be used to support a discorped head with oxygenated blood and nutrients, by means of tubes connected to arteries which pass through the neck. After circulating through the head, the deoxygenated blood returns to the cabinet by means of cannulae which are connected to veins that emerge from the neck."

While scientists have long experimented with detaching and reattaching the heads of rats, dogs and monkeys, it's unclear why the illustrations that accompany the patent (seen above) clearly resemble a human. No human, to date, is known to have to been through the procedure. Technology doesn't yet exist to reattach the spinal cord, which means the patient is left paralyzed from the neck down.

Below is a video from a Russian experiment of a severed dog head being kept alive on a support system similar to the one outlined above. The first minute explains how the system works, the second shows an actual dog's head connected to the cabinet. The experimenter tickles the dog with a feather and rings a loud bell to elicit responses from his subject.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Juice Cleanses: The Worst Diet

A doctor tries the ever-popular Master Cleanse. Sort of.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Juice Cleanses: The Worst Diet

A doctor tries the ever-popular Master Cleanse. Sort of.

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Video

What If Emoji Lived Among Us?

A whimsical ad imagines what life would be like if emoji were real.

Video

Living Alone on a Sailboat

"If you think I'm a dirtbag, then you don't understand the lifestyle."

Feature

The Future of Iced Coffee

Are artisan businesses like Blue Bottle doomed to fail when they go mainstream?

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In