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Human head transplant not impossible, says the author of "Cortical Brain Stimulation"

Developed over the past 25 years, cortical brain stimulation has emerged as a brand new, cutting-edge option for the treatment of intractable neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Italian neurosurgeon, Sergio Canavero, continues to make headlines following his claims on the near-future prospects of performing a head transplant. Until now, there has been no documented successful reconnection of the donor's and recipients spinal cords but his latest advances suggest it possible. Should the technique prove feasible, this breakthrough would make previously fatal diseases curable and would be likely to shape clinical neuroscience over the next decade. Canavero's arguments feature prominently in "Textbook of cortical brain stimulation" published just now and available open access, courtesy of De Gruyter Open.

Developed over the past 25 years, cortical brain stimulation has emerged as a brand new option for the treatment of intractable neurological and psychiatric disorders, such as tetraplegia. Devoid of the mortality and disabling morbidity that may accompany deep brain stimulation, stimulating the cortex with a minimally invasive surgical approach had initially proved its worth for the treatment of Central and other Neuropathic Pain Syndromes and later for Parkinson Disease, Dystonia, Stroke and Coma rehabilitation, Epilepsy, Depression and Tinnitus. Written by the pioneers in the field, this authoritative text is a comprehensive presentation of cortical stimulation techniques – exploring the crossing point between neuroscience and clinical surgery and providing busy clinicians with comparisons of new neurosurgical techniques and non-invasive cortical stimulation techniques, such as TMS and tDCS.

The procedure of head transplantation (which, technically, should be rather considered as a body transplant) would use an ultra-sharp blade to sever the spinal cord. Patients suffering from a total paralysis of the limbs and head would have their head completely removed, yet kept alive, until it could be grafted to a donor body. Notwithstanding its ambiguous moral and ethical ramifications, Canavero is convinced that his method could succeed where traditional attempts to heal the spinal cords of people with injuries have failed.

In his book, Canavero does not shy away from making some bold claims . In the opening chapter, he contemplates repairing a brain of psychopaths with cortical stimulation, which, he claims – has a zero risk of mortality, infections or brain damage and "would be an ethical way of helping both people and society." And although the procedure will raise eyebrows – of bioethics and of society at large, Canavero's book provides critical underpinnings of new neurosurgical approaches. Says Tipu Aziz, Professor of Neurosurgery at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, UK: "The author has assembled chapters written by a galaxy of international experts in the field (including himself) to cover every aspect of this topic from techniques to indications."

The book will be of interest to health professionals dealing with both brain and mind, such as neurologists, neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, neurorehabilitation specialists, including professionals treating patients in a vegetative state. And as Dr. Canavero hopes, "it will kickstart a discussion about mankind's future."

More information:
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Provided by De Gruyter