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Will to live and virtual death

  1. Mar 3, 2010 #1
    I have two questions:

    1. Wikipedia defines the will to live as "a psychological force to fight for survival, particularly when one's life is threatened by an injury or disease such as cancer." Have there been any experiments or studies done showing that a conscious decision by an individual to survive has resulted in a prolonged life span (past an accepted survival time given by the medical community). I know there are plethora of other factors that could potentially affect survivability, and that studies on dying people are probably not performed due to privacy and personal reasons. I was just wondering if subjective thought could effectively influence the physical body in the way mentioned above.

    2. In the movie The Matrix, when a person dies in a virtual reality simulation, their real body dies simultaneously. Have there been any experiments or studies done to simulate the brain-body responses to neurologically simulated traumatic bodily injury or organ failure. I would assume these experiments, if at all possible with our technology, would be done on organisms with simple neural connections, like insects. I've heard that people can die of overdosing on epinephrine or pain-inducing medication used in interrogations, which cause heart failure in high doses, but this is not the type of simulation the movie presents. The movie seems to suggest that the brain is fed information that the simulated body has shut down, and thus stops feeding life support signals to the "real" body, thus the individuals' mind kills their own body. I was wondering if the mind killing the body is, if at most theoretically, possible.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 4, 2010 #2
    I recall reading about statistical studies that suggest that terminal patients are not statistically likely to extend their lifespans beyond some characteristic dates (e.g. death rates on December 30th are not statistically different from death rates on January 2nd, and death rates on one's birthday are not statistically different from death rates a few days prior.) I can't produce any links right now, but you can try to find those studies by yourself.

    As to the second question, the question is essentially whether the brain even has enough control over the autonomous nervous system to shut down the body if given bad inputs. As far as I know, it does not. It takes months of yogi training simply to learn to consciously modulate your heart rate.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2010
  4. Mar 6, 2010 #3
    Thank you for your reply.
  5. Mar 8, 2010 #4
    It amazes me as to how brave and dignified some people are when facing certain death.
    I personally know of 3 different people who had different terminal cancers, and I was taken back as to how courageous they were.
    Speaking only of myself, I think I would be a basket-case.
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