Turns out that, one day, we might indeed live on in the form of a brain after our bodies have died. The Brain Preservation Foundation, which funds brain preservation research, has just awarded the "Small Mammal Brain Preservation Prize" to 21st Century Medicine.
The team has announced that it has cryonically frozen the brain of a mammal, then recovered that brain in almost perfect condition, suggesting that the long-term storage of someone's brain could be possible.
The research was published in the journal Cryobiology, and was led by Robert McIntyre, an MIT graduate. According to the team, this marks the "first demonstration that near-perfect, long term structural preservation of an intact mammalian brain is achievable."
Scientists have long been looking for ways to preserve the 86 billion plus neurons and the map of their connections, and by achieving this preservation, the goal is that memories can be recorded for later use, or that they can even be uploaded to a machine. Of course, that's a long way off, but the preservation of the brain is an important step to take.
To cryonically freeze the brain and then thaw it back out, the team used a method called an "Aldehyde-Stabilized Cryopreservation" protocol, which basically involves dispersing a number of chemicals throughout the vascular system of the brain, then converting those chemicals into a glass-like structure by freezing the brain to -210 degrees Fahrenheit, or -130 degrees Celsius. After some time, the brain was then rewarmed and the chemicals removed. Then, the team was able to test the synaptic connections using electron microscopy, ensuring they weren't damaged.
Of course, there are still some questions about the method. Cryonics research suggests that humans could achieve some level of immortality, however, it's not yet known if memory preservation is enough to retain who a person's true self. The next step for the team is to test out the method on larger mammals, and eventually, humans.