Cryonics Intelligence Test Responses


On 06 May, 2012 responses were solicited to what was termed The Cryonics Intelligence Test which was posted here on Chronosphere (see: Two people responded to this public request to “take the test” and provide input on possible solutions to the problems posed by the resource material that accompanied the test. The test consisted of the resource materials and the following  instructions:

Dear ______,

If you can figure out the scientific take home message for cryonics in what is to follow, you will have demonstrated extraordinary insight into “thinking in a cryonics-medical context.”

You will also have the tool to be able to understand why I believe that cryonics must, on a purely scientific-medical basis, be pursued in a fundamentally different way, both biomedically and socially.

The Test: The test resource materials are available for download at ___________, you will find a number of full text peer reviewed scientific papers. In addition, you will be sent several cryopatient case Hxs. Together, these resources contain data which should give a reasonably intelligent person with a properly prepared mind a fundamentally new insight into a major, indeed overwhelming flaw in how cryonics has been, and currently is practiced.

Your task is to:

a) identify the problem(s)

b) identify one or more possible solutions

You have 5 days to complete this task. Your response should be in the form of a succinct statement of the problem, and an itemization, and if you like, a discussion of possible solutions.

Thanks for your patience and cooperation.

Mike Darwin


The reasons for  this exercise were as follows (in no particular order):

To answer the question posed to me by Alcor CEO on what was the most important research to be undertaking in cryonics at this time.

To determine if a representative cross section of people not actively employed in cryonics, or working in cryonics-related research, would independently reach the same or same similar conclusions about a heretofore not understood or appreciated major problem in cryonics and propose the same possible solutions (or novel ones) to said problem.

To evaluate the caliber of the intellects (who chose to participate) who read Chronosphere.

To attempt to determine the number of Chronosphere readers who were willing to accept the challenge of  exposing their judgment and intellectual performance to scrutiny, either by myself, publicly, or both.

To determine the approximate number of people who took the time and exerted the effort to at least peruse the article and download the Test Resource Materials.

To attempt to get a preliminary idea of the nature of the readers of Chronosphere and their interest in highly technical topics of serious relevance to cryonics.

To gauge the impact and reaction of both the leadership of the cryonics community, and the cryonics community itself, to the revelations that result from this exercise and the commentary that is to shortly follow it.

To solicit novel solutions to the central problem posed in the exercise.

To inform the community at large, both the cryonics community and the public, of this serious problem in the way human cryoprerservation is currently being pursued (e.g., informed consent).


Two people (Alexander McLin and Gerald Monroe ) responded to the public request on Chronosphere to take the test. Prior to publicly soliciting responses, fifteen individuals of diverse backgrounds in cryonics were privately asked to take the test. Of these, eleven agreed to do so and of those eleven, ten completed the test. Of the ten privately solicited respondents, three agreed to allow publication of their answers; two with the use of their names. One individual, a young academic pursuing advanced graduate degrees, asked for and was granted anonymity, due to the likelihood that open involvement in cryonics could prejudice his academic career.

Since it is not possible for the responses of those who chose not to allow publication to be evaluated here, I will not make any comment on them beyond noting that they exist and that they, along with those of the respondents who did allow publication, were material in making the decision to pursue an open solicitation here for additional respondents.

At this time, the answers of the respondents are being presented absent any biographical/background information, so as not to bias the reader as he reads and considers each response. At a later date, I will edit this post to add a brief (few sentences) background description on each of the participants in order to provide demographic data on the participants as a group (e.g., how many were biomedically sophisticated, laypersons, long-time cryonicists, novices, etc.).[1]


Responses are presented in alphabetical order (by name of the respondent). The only editing that has been done is to to correct typographical errors.

Alexander McLin

After studying the test materials, I have come to the following conclusions about how cryonics is currently practiced today and the problem with its current standards of practice. The problem is that cryonics isn’t effectively managing ischemia, nor it doesn’t seem to be incorporating medical findings about how the brain is affected by hypotension, hypoventilation, and hyperventilation.

Moreover, research in determining a method to predict onset of cardiac death after life-saving treatments is withdrawn indicate that this is difficult to do so, this in conjunction with other papers, show that the brain damage begins almost as soon as a patient’s circulatory system begins to fail. This is problematic from the cryonics point of view, because long before cardiac death is declared, the brain may have already suffered irreversible ischemia damage preventing optimal cryonics suspension.

The research materials furthermore show that hyperventilation when administrated for whatever reason actually makes things worse and that hypoventilation is preferred. With this in mind, do cryonics providers incorporate that finding when administrating oxygen to patients as part of the stabilization protocol?

To summarize, the conclusions I arrived at are that current cryonics providers are failing to manage ischemia, failing to research ways to predict the degree of severity of ischemia, failing to engage in proactive activities to minimize ischemia pre- and post-deanimation, and not incorporating medical findings in improving brain survivability in presence of hypotension and hypoventilation. In addition, there appear to be a lack of an attempt to maintain extensive database of patient medical history, collection of body fluids for pre and post-deanimation, and pre- and post-suspension which is essential for research intended to improve cryonics practices.

Here I will discuss solutions I have come up to address some of the conclusions I have arrived at. The biggest problem is the issue of ischemia and how likely it is to occur once oxygen is interrupted and also how sensitive the brain is to reperfusion injury. I would review the existing protocols to ensure whether they’re adequately taking the reperfusion injury into account, whether medicines need to be updated(add or remove medicines) with respect to the latest medical findings. It should be verified via meaningful actual research whether the cool-down equipment is really minimizing ischemia.

Finally, how can cryonics address the crucial issue of the existing medical-legal atmosphere that require patients to be declared dead according either to the cardiac or brain death definitions. Both which ensure that the brain will suffer ischemia damage before suspension occurs. How can cryonicists safely arrange for optimal cryonic suspension free of problematic legal implications? This suggests a need to engage in policy lobbying and pushing for legislation aimed towards changing the legal situation for the betterment of cryonics. To put it so bluntly, it appears that voluntary euthanasia is a cryonicist’s best friend, as distressing and stressful it may sound.

Lastly, cryonics providers need to establish a medical database and engage in much more data collection than they are doing at present. Some of the patient histories show recurrent problems with their collection equipment, do they need to be upgraded or replaced? Research in minimizing or preventing ischemia should be undertaken to determine how to optimize brain preservation prior to beginning suspension.

Mark Plus

Many cryonicists in hospice conditions currently deanimate and are pronounced after agonal periods similar to shock which result in prolonged hypoperfusion and hypoxia of the brain. These lead to significant compromises of the brain’s vasculature (e.g., the brain’s ability to self-regulate its blood flow to certain regions like the hypothalamus when the arterial pressure drops below 40 mm Hg) and interfere with cardiopulmonary support, washout and especially perfusion with cryoprotectants, not to mention the havoc they must cause to the brain’s fine structure.

Also, the trend towards harvesting organs from patients who are pronounced cardiac-dead after as little as two minutes of asystole is probably not a good thing for cryonicists, if the laws change to make it harder to opt out of such donations which will have the effect of ensuring thorough brain death.

My suggestions:

Use people with professional training in shock medicine and anesthesiology to perform the cardiopulmonary support after pronouncement. Monitor the level of brain perfusion with the proprietary bispectral index technology (which I had to look up and I’d like to read more about) to determine if brain hypoperfusion happens. Hypoventilate the patients.

Premedicate cryonicists before pronouncement with drugs like piracetam, arginine vasopressin and NO inhibitors, mentioned in the papers you sent me. You also wrote that Jerome White had attempted to premedicate himself with over the counter supplements until a few weeks before his suspension.

Cryonicists with terminal illnesses should consider moving to places where the laws allow assisted euthanasia so that they can go into arrest and undergo the suspension procedure well before their agonal decline.

Cryonics organizations need to gather a lot more data when they perform suspensions based on the current state of the medical art. The S-100B assay should be used along with other assays to measure brain injuries. These assays plus the bispectral index data can provide badly needed feedback on the effectiveness of brain perfusion procedures.

If the patient can’t deanimate at the time of his choosing, use some of the medical models developed by the DCD researchers to better estimate the patient’s time of cardiac death during standby.

I hope my answers and recommendations are not too off the mark, and I suspect I’ve misunderstand or failed to notice some key points. You gave me a lot of unfamiliar material to absorb in a short amount of time. After a few more weeks of study, I could probably understand it better. Some kind of primer would also help. A few years ago I speculated that based on actuarial considerations, the ideal candidate for cryosuspension would have to be a healthy ten year old who could walk into the lab and lie down on the table. That leaves the rest of us somewhere away from optimal candidacy for cryosuspension. But then, what can we do about it?

And I do plan to study this further, so thank you very much for the scientific background information, and feel free to send me additional papers.

Other observations:

I notice the contrast between the thorough reports you’ve written for the suspensions you’ve performed versus the ones written by Alcor’s “pod people,” which apparently includes Aaron Drake. Several things seem to go wrong with about every suspension Alcor has done lately, including basic preparations like not having the tray of all the necessary surgical tools ready for Dr. Nancy or the surgeon. I knew in a vague way that things had gotten bad, but you’ve given me some idea of how bad.

The scientific literature started to report the effects of shock and hypoperfusion decades ago, but you wouldn’t know that from the “official” cryonics propaganda. It seems like the cryonics movement should have incorporated this knowledge from the very beginning, but then physicians, surgeons and neuroscientists have mostly avoided cryonics and deprived us of their expertise. Dr. Ravin Jain, a neurologist, sits on Alcor’s board, and he should know this stuff, but I don’t get the impression that he’s done anything to incorporate his knowledge into Alcor’s suspension procedures. The neglect gives cryonics a reputation for “scienciness” and pseudoscience which it doesn’t necessarily have to have.

Gerald Monroe

a. The current techniques practiced for all the cryonics cases most likely result in long periods of ischemic hypoperfusion to the brain. Instruments now exist to detect this, combining the bispectral index with near infrared spectroscopy, and apparently even when top notch experts support cardiac surgeries on children, the hypoperfusion is common.

The ischemia and the hypoperfusion are very, very bad. Of course, so is the freezing. And the storage in liquid nitrogen where dissolved oxygen can reach the tissues and oxidize them. And the shoestring budget (compared to even a single hospital) the cryonics organizations have to do everything on.

b. It doesn’t sound like these problems are insoluble if there were real resources (compared to those spent to delay death from cancer by a few months, for instance) dedicated to the problem. Tomorrow, if cryonics had the resources of a single major metropolitan hospital, it could actually solve these problems in a systemic way.

There have to be experiments done on animals, where many different techniques* are attempted and evaluated. Evaluations should be done by preparing synapses of slices of the subject’s brain following the freezing. Also, rewarming and function tests (of slices), once the state of the art reaches the point that this is practical.

The human patients have to be part of this evaluation. If no one looks, the mistakes made will never be corrected. Somehow very small pieces need to be removed as samples from the human patients, following each cryonics procedure, small portions mostly taken from sections of the patient’s brain not thought to contain unique personality information.

And so on. Real improvements don’t come easily or cheaply – they come incrementally, with great effort, and honest evaluation of the results of each change. The last element is probably the most important of all.

The history of medicine is littered with many, many examples where something becomes common practice without honest testing of the results. Pretty much universally it fails.

With all that said, for those of us right here, alive in an era where cryonics does not have the resources it deserves, it is simply Pascal’s wager. No matter how dim the odds are, some chance of a form of survival is better than none. Information is probably duplicated inside the human brain many times over, and all of the decay processes that work against cryonics are things that happen according to predictable laws of physics. In a future world where a brain could be scanned at the molecular level, there is probably at least some recoverable memory and personality data for even the worst cryonics case.

For some, the prospective of saving even an incomplete fragment of yourself is better than the guaranteed destruction by rotting in the ground or burning in an incinerator.

Why it is like it is : the cryonics organizations don’t have any money. There’s probably a hundred new things that could be tried, and most of them are not better than what is being done now. Every dollar spent now is a buck less that could go to protecting the existing patients over many more decades.

Moreover, without any way to evaluate the current baseline : how effective is cryonics actually preserving the patients, right now? Making changes blindly is stupid. In the history of medicine, time and time again, it has been found that when a simple and dumb medical technique is compared honestly to a more expensive and advanced technique, almost universally the difference is minimal to none. A few examples : diuretics work as well as the far more expensive and specific beta blockers, film X-rays provide basically the same therapeutic improvement as the vastly more expensive CTs and MRIs, physical therapy works about as often as spine surgery, etc.

This is why in countries with socialized medicine, with outdated equipment and techniques and long wait lists, the patients live almost as long. (and the population lives years longer due to better lifestyles)

* A few ideas that might or might not work :
1. More rapid cooling by exposing the brain to coolant with burr holes and connecting pumps directly to cerebral perfusion
2. Drugs to prevent the cerebral arterioles from closing when exposed to cold perfusate.
3. Calcium blockers to prevent apoptotic pathways from triggering
4. Oscillating magnets like the Japanese claim work for transplanting teeth
5. Skipping cryonics entirely and plastinating the brain

Jordan Sparks, DMD

Well, I’ve read all the papers. I’ve attached the notes I made. I know you said I could skim them a little more quickly, but I was having trouble understanding and remembering. I needed to use a more aggressive approach this time. I did the references to help me get organized, and if I had to do that again I would do it without listing out all the names. Anyway, this is where I’m at.

I have a tentative answer which I may refine later. I’m continuing to think about it. You only gave me one cryopatient case Hx. I notice that it’s rich with hematology and chemistry data. Repeated samples were taken and charted over time. Both the TBW circuit and the cryoprotective perfusion circuit are well documented. Pressures and flow rates are nicely charted. Also, glycerol, blood gas, and pH were monitored during cryoprotective perfusion. The lab samples, in particular, are notable because that is not the current practice of Alcor or CI. It would take me some time to look back through case reports to see when was the last time this was done.

a) Cryonics providers are currently disregarding complexity associated with the biochemical milieu. I’m not quite sure how to state it, but all of the 22 papers treated their problems as a complex interplay of the mechanical issues as well as the biochemistry. Reading current Alcor and CI reports, on the other hand, there is a total disregard for the role of biochemistry.

That’s my first stab at it. I wish I could state it better, and I might try to rewrite it. I might wait for feedback from you before I go much further in case I’ve missed your point.

1.  Fast recovery from shock used vasopressor combined with hypertonic saline starch.  Slow recovery used fluid resuscitation.  Propofol and Hb concentrations were comparable in both groups.  The fast recovery resulted in better cerebral perfusion and a higher BIS that was likely due to the better perfusion.  CPP =MAP−ICP.

2.  Three resuscitation protocols: 1=FR (fluid resuscitation), 2=NA/HS (noradrenaline/ hypertonic starch), and 3=AVP/ HS (arginine vasopressin/HS).  The AVP/HS group had faster and higher increase in MAP and CCP as well as better survival.  Also, ICP was lower.

3.  After significant hypervolemia, cerebral circulation decompensation occured.  There were significant regional variations in cerebral blood flow.  The redistribution favored the areas related to cardiovascular control.

4.  Patients in shock can have normal physiological, hematological, fluid, and electrolyte balance but still die due to metabolic abnormalities.

5.  In spite of mechanisms for preferential shunting of blood to the brain, low MAP will result in poor perfusion.  This results in inadequate oxygenation as well as inadequate lactate washout.  Decreased perfusion leads to ischemic damage.

6.  Hemorrhagic hypotension was induced in dogs which was still above the lower limit of cerebral autoregulation.  This resulted in an increased turnover of free fatty acids in the CSF.

7.  Moderate reduction of MAP in anesthetized cats resulted in no significant EEG changes.  Below 40 mm Hg, cortical rhythms slowed and then stopped.  Cell damage was only found below 40 mm Hg.

8.  Baboons were pretreated with Phenoxybenzamine (PBZ) before hypovolemic shock, and it prevented the fall in cerebral blood flow.  EEG does not normally return after reinfusion.

9.  Bispectral index (BIS) dropped to 0 during cerebral hypoperfusion.

10.  For donation after cardiac death (DCD) kidneys, prolonged severe hypotension was a good predictor of subsequent organ function.  Donor age also correlated with worse outcome.

11.  Dogs anesthetized and hypovolemic shock induced for 2 hours.  NMR used to monitor phosphate metabolism.  Upon fluid resuscitation, phosphate pools quickly returned to near baseline values, but intracellular acidosis persisted.

12.  Hemorrhagic shock combined with increased ICP is particularly damaging.  Increased ICP leads to cerebral ischemia which causes release of thromboxane A2 (TxA2), a potent vasoconstrictor and hypertenstive agent.  The increase in TxA2 persists for at least two hours after reperfusion and results in further cerebral hypoperfusion.  Pretreatment with COX inhibitor ibuprofen decreases TxA2 levels and improves total cerebral blood flow after global cerebral ischemia.

13.  Brain is vulnerable during hypotension and shock, especially long-lasting shock.  Patchy areas of ischemia developed through sludge formation and persisted even after hyperperfusion, indicating the role of local factors.  Phenoxybenzamine pretreatment significantly reduced rCBF changes during shock.

14.  DCD livers result in inferior graft survival compared to donation after brain death (DBD).  A DCD risk index was developed.  The lowest risk is with donor age <= 45 years,  warm ischemia time (DWIT) <= 15 minutes, and cold ischemia time (CIT) <= 10 hours.

15.  CNS activity was measured during hemorrhagic shock under light central anesthesia.  After reinfusion, if neurons failed to recover electrical activity, this was an early indication of eventual irreversibility.  There is a relationship between irreversibility and cumulative oxygen debt and excess lactate.

16.  Rats were subjected to hypoxia and hypotension followed by resuscitation.  Rather than the no reflow that the authors were expecting, they observed hyperemia in some areas for at least two hours.  They concluded that therapy aimed at increasing cerebral blood flow and oxygenation would be insufficient.

17.  Guidelines for controlled DCD are given.  DBD is superior.

18.  DCD score system is described.  Kidneys may benefit from therapeutic interventions before transplantation.

19.  Average values for basal respiratory functions in adolescents and adults.

20.  Severe hypotension causes brain damage.  Microvascular damage results in hemorrhage upon reinfusion.

21.  Prolonged agonal time did not influence kidney transplantation outcome when other variables were closely considered instead.  For example, elderly donors were not included.

22.  During hypovolemic shock, electrical activity and ICP was minimally altered.  The authors interpret this as a lessening of the role of the brain in the genesis and perpetuation of irreversible shock.


1: Cavus E, Meybohm P, Doerges V, Hoecker J, Betz M, Hanss R, Steinfath M, Bein B.  Effects of cerebral hypoperfusion on bispectral index: A randomized, controlled animal experiment during haemorrhagic shock.  Resuscitation.  2010;81:1183-1189.

2: Cavus E, Meybohm P, Doerges V, Hugo HH, Steinfath M, Nordstroem J, Scholz J, Bein B.  Cerebral effects of three resuscitation protocols in uncontrolled haemorrhagic shock: a randomized controlled experimental study.  Resuscitation.  2009;80:567-572.

3: Chen RY, Fan FC, Schuessler GB, Simchon S, Kim S, Chien S.  Regional cerebral blood flow and oxygen consumption of the canine brain during hemorrhagic hypotension.  Stroke.  1984;15:343-350.

4: Cowley RA, Attar S, LaBrosse E, McLaughlin J, Scanlan E, Wheeler S, Hanashiro P, Grumberg I, Vitek V, Mansberger A, Firminger H.  Some significant biochemical parameters found in 300 shock patients.  J Trauma.  1960;9:926-938.

5: Feldman RA, Yashon D, Locke GE, Hunt WE.  Cerebral tissue lactate in experimental oligemic shock.  J Neurosurg.  1971;34:774-778.

6: Fritschka E, Ferguson JL, Spitzer JJ.  Increased free fatty acid turnover in CSF during hypotension in dogs.  Am J Physiol.  1979;236(6):H802-H807.

7: Gregory PC, McGeorge AP, Fitch W, Graham DI, MacKensie ET, Harper AM.  Effects of hemorrhagic hypotension on the cerebral circulation.  II.  Electricocortical function.  Stroke.  1979;10:719-723.

8: Hamar J, Kovach AGB, Reivich M, Nyary I, Durity F.  Effect of phenoxybenzamine on cerebral blood flow and metabolism in the baboon during hemorrhagic shock.  Stroke.  1979;10:401-407.

9: Hemmerling TM, Olivier JF, Basile F, Le N, Prieto I.  Bispectral index as an indicator of cerebral hypoperfusion during off-pump coronary artery bypass grafting.  Anesth Analg.  2005;100:354-6.

10: Ho KJ, Owens CD, Johnson SR, Khwaja K, Curry MP, Pavlakis M, Mandelbrot D, Pomposelli JJ, Shah SA, Saidi RF, Ko DSC, Malek S, Belcher J, Hull D, Tullius SG, Freeman RB, Pomfret EA, Whiting JF, Hanto DW, Karp SJ.  Donor postextubation hypotension and age correlate with outcome after donation after cardiac death transplantation.  Transplantation.  2008;85:1588-1594.

11: Horton JW, McDonald G.  Heart and brain nucleotide pools during hemorrhage and resuscitation.  Am J Physiol.  1990;259:H1781-H1788.

12: Kong DL, Prough DS, Whitley JM, Taylor C, Vines S, Deal DD, DeWitt DS.  Hemorrhage and intracranial hypertension in combination incresae cerebral production of thromboxane A2.  Critical Care Medicine.  1991;19:532-538.

13: Kovach A, Sandor P.  Cerebral blood flow and brain function during hypotension and shock.  Ann Rev Physiol.  1976;38:571-596.

14: Lee KW, Simplins CE, Montgomery RA, Locke JE, Segev DL, Maley WR.  Factors affecting graft survival after liver transplantation from donation after cardiac death donors.  Transplantation.  2006;82:1683-1688.

15: Peterson CG, Haugen FP.  Hemorrhagic shock and the nervous system.  1. Spinal cord reflex activity and brain stem reticular formation.  Annals Surgery.  1965;485-496.

16: Proctor HJ, Wood JJ, Palladino W, Woodley C.  Effects of hypoxia and hypotension on oxygen delivery in the brain.  J Trauma.  1979;19:682-685.

17: Reich DJ, Mulligan DC, Abt PL, Pruett TL, Abecassis MMI, D’Alessandro A, Pomfret EA, Freeman RB, Markmann JF, Hanto DW, Matas AJ, Roberts JP, Merion RM, Klintmalm GBG.  A J Transplant. 2009;9:2004-2011.

18: Plata-Munoz JJ, Vazques-Montes M, Friend PJ, Fuggle SV.  The deceased donor score system in kidney transplants from deceased donors after cardiac death.  European Society Organ Transplant.  2010;23:131-139.

19: Shock NW, Soley MH.  Average values for basal respiratory functions in adolescents and adults.  J Nutrition.  1939;143-153.

20: Tamura H, Witoszka MM, Hopkins RW, Simeone FA.  The nervous system in experimental hemorrhagic shock: morphology of the brain.  J Trauma.  1972;12:869-875.

21: van Heurn LWE.  Prolonged agonal time–not a contraindication for transplantation.  Nat Rev Nephrol.  2011;7:432-433.

22: Yashon D, Locke GE, Bingham WG, Wiederholt WC, Hunt WE.  Cerebral function during profound oligemic hypotension in the dog.  J Neurosurg.  1971;34:494-499.


As you wrote in 1994, the three sources of damage to cryopatients are 1) the underlying disease process, 2) shock and global and trickle flow ischemia secondary to dying and cardiac arrest, and 3) cryoprotectant toxicity and cryoinjury from freezing. This, as far as I can tell, has not changed. So, a flaw in how cryonics is practiced would have to mean that providers are not minimizing the damage from these processes as well as they could be. #1 is out as that is not the primary mission of cryo providers, although I agree with the arguments on your blog that they could add some value here too. #3 is also basically out, because gains over M22 seem unlikely to come in the near future, at least outside of 21CM.

That leaves #2. A number of the papers you sent me study animal models of hemorrhagic shock, and the results are not pretty for preservation of cellular structure. For example, the amount of necrotic cells in Ozkan et al’s paper is pretty high–up to 50% necrotic in the temporal lobe, after just 3 hours. The natural question is: if a cell undergoes necrosis, has it irretrievably lost the information coded in its cellular state? The answer is unclear. On one hand, it may be possible to reverse engineer the process of cell degradation from the surviving clues and thus recover the position of crucial membrane receptors and/or neurites. On the other hand, if the degradation process is random enough, that may not be the case. Probably it depends on the specifics — “cell necrosis” is a broad class.

A number of the other papers look at the acceptability of donors who died of cardiac death. It seems that kidneys can last up to 4 hr’s of warm ischemia with similar function post-transplant, while lungs following can hardly withstand 15 mins of warm ischemia time and still offer good function post-transplant. Meanwhile, it is practically common knowledge that the organ which is least able to survive following ischemic time is the brain. Finally, there is regional susceptibility variation within the brain, and there are reasons to think that regions like CA1 that may be especially important for identity (i.e., memory) are especially vulnerable to ischemia.

To me, this emphasized how quick the interventions must be and how essential it is to maximize the time period during which oxygen perfusion in the brain is high. There’s no reason why neurons have to be able to withstand lack of oxygen for long before randomly decaying — evolution has little reason to select for it. It is a bias of operating on human timescales to think that not much can happen within five minutes, but molecular timescales unfold much faster.

You also sent a few papers that evaluated measures to query brain activity via EEG. You seem to have a particular interest in one EEG-derived algorithm called the Bispectral Index, which in a few fascinating cases actually went to zero in the absence of cerebral blood flow during surgery. These are interesting in part because they could potentially be used to monitor CBF in cryo patients.

Which brings me to the major problem that we see in many of the case reports you sent me. That is, we have good reason to believe that all of them had already experienced a very low brain oxygen perfusion prior to clinical death. The signs of this are many, and include the hyperventilation of A2435 and A2361, the terrible peripheral perfusion of A1556, the hypotension and fluid loss of A1614, ACS9577′s poor perfusion and very low coma scale score, and the long periods of apnea and low blood pressure of A2420. One of the papers that you sent me called the period after removal from life support and cardiac death the “agonal phase”, and this phrase has been aptly used in cryonics to describe the period during which a patient is known to be eminently terminal but has not yet reached cardiac death.

One key question is whether these patients are ever in fact technically brain dead, meaning no neural activity at all, as measured by EEG or CT. If they are, then it is possible that clinical death could be pronounced and preservation techniques could be started much sooner. When I first thought of this, I was hopeful that I had discovered your “problem.” But on further contemplation I’m not so sure, in part because it seems like people would have thought of this. So, I am going with the more obvious, and indeed in some senses more troubling, problem that many or most cryonics patients experience torrents of brain damage during their agonal period.

What to do about this?

1) Somehow establish, in the US, legal recognition of the rights of cryo patients to initiate procedures to preserve brain-encoded identity when the patient is diagnosed by independent physicians to be terminal, in a similar way that organ transplants are.

2) Use a workaround by going to a country like Switzerland that already allows assisted suicide in such cases, perform the cryopreservation there, and then ship the patients back on dry ice to the US.

3) #2, except establish a new storage facility in the foreign country.

4) Develop, drawing off of the “normal” biomedical literature, substantially improved methods for preserving brain oxygen perfusion in agonal cryonics patients, and implement these on a routine basis.

One of the interesting things about this problem is that it is not specific to cryopreservation but would also apply to plastination, and may even be more pronounced there. So this is one area where progress, if any is made on either front, would certainly be synergistic.

A meta thought of mine about this assignment is that I didn’t like the assumption that I would be able to diagnose problems and suggest solutions so quickly to a problem that many people have spent lots of time thinking about. I doubt that what I have written above is at all novel.

Still, I did find it to be a very worthwhile exercise to learn about some details of cryopreservation and its associated medical concepts, and for that, I thank you for offering it to me.


I want to extend a sincere thank you to all who participated in this exercise, and especially to Alexander McLin, Mark Plus, Gerald Monroe, Jordan Sparks, DMD, and “Synaptic” for publicly participating. It takes an enormous amount of courage to undertake such an exercise on the Internet, where it both is and will remain open to public scrutiny, more or less indefinitely. Congratulations gentlemen, you have my unreserved admiration for your courage and for your willingness to take a personal risk in pursuit of the truth. — MD


[1] Excluded from the private solicitation for participation were individuals actively employed in cryonics or working as paid, or indirectly paid employees or contractors for cryonics organizations, or in cryonics-related research. The public solicitation for participation was open to all comers.

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4 Responses to Cryonics Intelligence Test Responses

  1. gwern says:

    Now I regret not participating myself.

    (I was just too busy with a bunch of my little projects; for example, I spent this afternoon finishing and analyzing a little experiment involving moving a link to one of my webpages from a Wikipedia article to its talk page to see how many fewer people clicked through.)

  2. Jordan Sparks says:

    After receiving a second case report and a suggestion to look at the peri-arrest vitals, my answer was:
    Both patients had long periods of hypoperfusion: 51+ hours and 34+ hours. According to the various papers you sent me, that would lead to cumulative oxygen debt, excess lactate, intracellular acidosis, microvascular damage, metabolic abnormalities, and ischemia in the brain. Upon reperfusion, I would expect persistent acidosis, microvascular hemorrhage, vasoconstriction in some areas and possibly hyperemia in other areas, edema, and patchy areas of sludge formation. In other words, a setup for poor cryoprotective perfusion… . I didn’t quite grasp until just now that there was essentially no blood flow at all to the cortex for hours before death.

  3. cath says:

    Mike, I hope you didn’t assume I did not want to take the test, but I have hardly been online in the last two weeks as the deadline for my exhibition is close, and I have been painting all day so that by nightfall my vision is tired. To head up the paddock and logon is not uppermost in my needs or even capacities. I would like to have done the test after August 7th when the paintings are on show, as I intended to give it my best and allot 5 days to the task. This is an explanation by one of your serious readers as to why the test was not done, and why your site not accessed by me recently, and, believe me, I have missed reading your articles!

    • chronopause says:

      Cath, no problem. While the test was open to everyone, my hope was that newcomers, or people with little or no biomedical background, would be the preponderance of people to take it. As you will soon (hopefully) see, the test was not really a test for the people who took the time to take it, but rather, it was a test for the leadership, administrative and scientific, of the now extant cryonics organizations. The cross section of people who took the test were, in a way, the “control group.” I wanted to demonstrate that even a fairly heterogeneous group of people with little or no exposure to the actual hands-on mechanics of cryonics could fairly consistently understand both the science and the enormous practical import of the “issue” at the heart of the test – and do so solely on the basis of deductive reasoning from the primary scientific literature and a few relevant cryonics case reports. To my surprise, every individual who took the test succeeded in understanding the core problem. I find that astonishing and impressive. But, of course, I must remind myself that these individuals are a self-selected and high filtered subset of the readers of Chronosphere.

      The next step was to wait “an indecent interval” after the test results were posted (with no commentary by me) to see if there would be any response from the cryonics organizations. Even something as simple as raising the core biomedical issue on their own forums, on Cryonet2, in their magazines or newsletters, or as an issue for discussion within their own administrative frameworks (board or committee meetings, etc.) In terms of publicly visible discussion, this has not happened. Thus, I have objective proof of a disturbing phenomenon I’ve long been trying to document (and change), namely that there is a complete blindness and/or a DNR (do not respond) response to use your term, to critically important issues which challenge the very core of cryonics’ scientific and procedural operations. And what’s more, that a broad cross section of relative novices to cryonics can and do understand the profound implications of the same problem, given an adequate data set to reason from.

      In short, the Cryonics Intelligence Test is an experiment, the denouement of which is shortly to be presented here. So, do not feel badly about “not participating.” We all have lives to lead which include giving full attention to things both mundane and critical which delay our attention to other things, also often important. I’m glad you “are back,” and I look forward to seeing more of your comments here. You and Mark Plus consistently add the most valuable content to this site. — Mike Darwin

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