Brain freeze

MOST people choose burial or cremation as part of their funeral arrangements, but a little more left-field approach offered by an Australian foundation is to have your brain removed and cryogenically frozen.

For nearly a decade the Neural Archive Foundation has been offering Aussies the deep-freeze option in the hope that one day scientists will be able to upload their memories, or even their entire consciousness, into a computer or artificial being so they can exist in virtual reality.

For a $35,000 “donation” the foundation will store your grey matter indefinitely, although the website flags other fees such as funeral directors for the rest of the body; it wasn’t clear if you’d have to pay for your own surgeon to remove the brain.

So far at least 10 Australians have their brain stored in “high-quality, medical grade, cryogenic storage” facilities across the country courtesy of NAF.

“For security and privacy reasons we do not identify which tissues are stored with which organisations but reports from the independent organisation that audits us are available on request,” says NAF’s website.

According to the foundation’s charter, experiments on the brain are prohibited, while Australian law prohibits trade in human tissue.

Brain frozen with icicles hanging off it

NAF executive director Philip Rhoades, 66, is a former biomedical researcher and has been working part-time on a PhD on population genetics for several years.

He froze his parents’ brains after they died within 10 days of each other in 2016 and says they will provide a “time capsule” for their descendants and historical posterity.

If waking up as a virtual simulation makes you a bit squeamish, full-body cryonics might be more your style, though it will entail a trip to the US. You’ll also need some spare cash on hand; it costs $35,000 to prepare a cadaver for shipping and a one-off payment of up to $200,000 to be placed on ice.

Most people pay for the service via an insurance policy, with US organisations Cryonics Institute and Alcor the main destinations.

Mr Rhoades is also an executive officer of the the Cryonics Association of Australasia, a non-profit organisation helping Australasians navigate the logistics of getting their dead body to a US cryonics facility.

He knows of at least eight Aussies who have been shipped to the US to be stored. Eventually the CAA wants to act as a self-regulatory authority for any cryonics facilities in Australia.

That may become a reality, with Southern Cryonics planning to open a facility in Holbrook in NSW.

However in September last year the company said it was reviewing its options and “considering scaling back the requirements, obtaining more funds, or both” after quotes tendered to built the facility were higher than expected.

“We can’t be sure how long the changes will take, though, so we don’t currently have an expected opening date,” the company said
in a release.

The Voice contacted Southern Cryonics for an update, but no one got back to us.

Many scientists are adamant cryogenics is a waste of money, arguing it’s impossible to bring someone back to life.

But where there’s a glimmer of hope, people will continue to look for that elusive elixir for immortality.

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