Do you remain awake for a short time after having your head lopped off?

OK, I don’t even know what to do with this. I came across it looking for something else. And if you are squeamish you might want to move on right about now.

But. I know that when you watch a movie, like Game of Thrones or some other horror movie or period piece, and somebody gets their head lopped off, or guillotined, I know you are wondering……are they still awake for a little while?

And I just know you’re looking at the head to see if it blinks or tries to talk or something. Don’t deny it. I know you do.
I know this because I do the same (and I imagine we are more similar than different no?).

Well somebody else has looked into the topic and published a science paper on it : Turner M D (January 16, 2023) “The Most Gentle of Lethal Methods”: The Question of Retained Consciousness Following Decapitation.

The Guillotine is named after a French doctor, Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, who pronounced in 1789, “With my machine, I’ll have your head off in the blink of an eye, and you will suffer not at all”. Shortly afterwards it replaced the previous method of dispatching nobility….beheading with an axe or sword (commoners were hanged).

Ever since then, there have been urban myths and anecdotes of heads that blinked, blushed, stared or otherwise reacted in the immediate minutes after being separated from their bodies.

The article goes on to examine the actual scientific evidence for retained consciousness in both human and animal decapitations.
I will spare you all the gruesome details…and there are plenty …(but then I imagine if you have read this far you are going to go read the whole article now. Am I right?)

If you are not up to it, the authors conclude:

The evidence currently available to us is scant, and the studies that imply that there is a retained awareness in decapitated rats for several seconds suffer from a low sample size. While the best evidence currently available to us suggests that LOC is nearly instant in decapitation for both human and rodent models, it is possible that the truth will never be fully known. No government on Earth continues to use the guillotine as a method of execution while beheading via sword is confined to a single nation. The historical accounts that are available to us remain frustratingly scant in evidence and are often closer to urban legends than actual scientific accounts. However, there is a new possibility for further insight into this bizarre historical anomaly. As research into head transplantation continues, and as science continues to probe the edges of human consciousness, a clearer picture may one day emerge.

Head transplantation?!?

I find all this simultaneously fascinating, and deeply disturbing.
Because life (and death) is not the movies.

One response to “Do you remain awake for a short time after having your head lopped off?”

  1. That’s it… I’m off down the rabbit hole 😜

    Liked by 1 person

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