Traits After Death

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ChaosTitan

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So this topic is brought to you by a comment made over in SYW that made me sit down and think hard about one particular point made by a critter: attributes retained after death.

Let me explain. In the opening chapter, my recently-murdered MC wakes up in a new, recently-dead body. In the text, she notices that her new voice is quite different from her original voice and retains a bit of the dead girl's twang. Someone challenged this point, and it made me think. And reason out why I thought she might retain the accent.

I wanted to know what others believed and thought it would make an interesting discussion down here in Spec Fic Land. :)

So what say you? If you and I died, and you were resurrected into my body, what attributes of mine would remain intact? Accent? Coordination? Ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Propensity for popping joints?
 

Sarpedon

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Well, since you seem to be ascribing in your story to the concept of dualism (ie, mind being separate from body, unless someone's physically switched the brains, igor) Anything that is a physical attribute of the body (ie. size of vocal cords, muscle mass, apendendectomy scars, etc) is retained by the body and the new 'soul' is stuck with. Whereas skills, mannerisms, habits etc would come with the new 'soul.' Something that may be humorous; the new 'soul' plays guitar. The previous inhabitant of the body didn't. So she starts playing the guitar, and gets her fingers all bloody because she doesn't have the right callouses.
 

Dragon-lady

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If she has memory of her past, then I think she would retain an accent. That is dependant on what speech you grew up hearing. However, voice quality which is at least partially dependant on the size of vocal cords would be different so her voice would probably be either higher or lower in pitch. Strength and degree of flexibility would be a body thing. You might have muscle memory from having done sports or other activities. If the "old owner" of her body played tennis, there might be some memory of the movements but not the rules, for example.

On the guitar thing, she might remember how to play the guitar (probably would) but her new body might not have good fine motor coordination which would affect her playing--so she might feel clumsy doing it. Eye-hand coordination might be retained--or lack of it. (I never could hit a baseball. LOL)
 

ChaosTitan

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Something that may be humorous; the new 'soul' plays guitar. The previous inhabitant of the body didn't. So she starts playing the guitar, and gets her fingers all bloody because she doesn't have the right callouses.

Ouch! :tongue

Going with this example, if someone had been trained in self-defense and some amount of hand-to-hand combat skills, she would retain that knowledge. However, if the previous inhabitant's idea of physical activity was walking down to the latte shop twice a day, she'd have a hard time throwing a roundhouse kick in a body not used to kicking that high (or spinning with any level of balance).

On the flip side of things, what if someone clumsy (like me) was reborn in Chuck Norris's body. His body has the training and muscle coordination to pound someone's ass into the pavement with his pinky. How much of his martial arts training is physical (the stuff the body would retain) and how much his mental (the stuff my soul would bring with it)?
 

Mr Flibble

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That made me think of the people who have had transplants and found they had sudden new abilities / desires ( ie the ability to play the cello, speak a previously unknown language, the desire to listen to jazz when they had previously hated it, the new and inexplicable craving for curry, all traits that the donor had)

“In his book, The Heart’s Code, Paul Pearsall reports on the findings of his interviews with seventy-eight heart transplant patients and sixty-seven recipients of other organs. What Dr. Pearsall discovered is that in some patients, those he calls “cardio-sensitives”, the new heart seems to bring with it some “memory” of the heart donor. Often these memories are experienced in the recipient as new taste preferences, such as food or hobby interests, language choices such as use of specific words or phrases, or even memories of incidents in the donor’s life. One, very moving, experience Pearsall relates happened at an international meeting of psychologists and psychiatrists where Pearsall spoke about “cellular memory” as it had been reported to him by his transplant patients. One psychiatrist, clearly moved by the findings came to the microphone and spoke as she struggled through her tears.
“Sobbing to the point that the audience and I had difficulty understanding her, she said, ‘I have a patient, an eight-year-old little girl who received the heart of a murdered ten-year-old girl. Her mother brought her to me when she started screaming at night about her dreams of the man who had murdered her donor. She said her daughter knew who it was. After several sessions, I just could not deny the reality of what this child was telling me. Her mother and I finally decided to call the police and, using the descriptions from the little girl, they found the murderer. He was easily convicted with evidence my patient provided. The time, the weapon, the place, the clothes he wore, what the little girl he killed had said to him…everything the little heart transplant recipient reported was completely accurate.”

Deepending on your scepticism levels, I'd say you could get more than physical attributes. Personally I might believe that the new body would retain it's accent. And of course the actual depth / pitch / timbre depends on your vocal chords so that would be easily explained.
 

HeronW

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Sounds like a body thief scenario, or at least body sharing. If the two minds didn't know each other then there could be conflicting movements, feelings, even variable hearing/eyesight/smell-taste/tactile sensitivity. If the minds found out about each other and didn't get along there could be a battle for supremacy of the body. If they did know each other or decided to get along--considering the stress put on the corporeal form could injure or kill it, then there would be tradeoffs and compromises, or sharing of skill time depending on the situation.

http://www.google.com/search?q=Abby...-US&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&startIndex=&startPage=1

Is about two young womensharing the same body--with two separate heads. They are bright, healthy and happy.
 

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Interesting question, Chaos. Now that I think about it, I have a similar thing near the end of one of my WIPs, where one of the protags is in a new body. Although the body is made to be physically strong and agile, she has no training, so it doesn't help her, and it even takes some getting used to for her to be able to walk without tripping in the new body.

I'd say accent would be mental and stick with the mind, but the voice would change because of the vocal chords. In mine, though the voice changes, the character is identified by another character because something she says and how she says it is exactly the same as when she had said it before.

In the Chuck Norris example, I would say that the strength would stay, but the discipline wouldn't. So if you-Chuck-Norris had to lift something, break down a door, or get into a fight with someone who didn't know how to fight, you-Chuck-Norris would do okay, but if you had to fight someone who knew what they were doing, the strength alone probably won't help you out.
 

Sarpedon

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I would be super-skeptical of such claims. Muscle memory is one thing, but thats not so much in the muscle itself, but the Cerebellum part of the brain. If Igor transplanted brains, then she should have her own muscle memory, which may or may not be able to cope with the change of body. If we are being spiritual about this, we can assume that since the cerebellum is not part of the voluntary nervous system (??is it?) it would stay with 'its' body, and thus the host would still have it. This is the problem with dualism. The mind and the body are not separate, but I'd bet you dollars to dingleberries that memories are not stored in the heart, and that story is made up.

Though a transplant of a digestive organ might lead to certain changes in taste, as the new one might not cope as well with unfamiliar foods, and the new owner might subconciously adapt away from food that upsets them and to new food that the organ is accustomed to. I have no real idea, thats just speculation.
 

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The ability to do something isn't only determined by strength though. Much of fighting and martial arts as well as activities such as playing the piano involves "muscle memory" which has little or nothing to do with conscious memory. Those, I think, would be retained by the body.

So if someone took a swing at another consciousness in a Chuck Norris body, it seems to me the muscle memory might take over. There might be some degree of automatic reaction as a defense. Dodging, parrying and riposte (sorry for the fencing term) would probably be automatic and then you'd sit there wondering -- how did I do that? But not the full range of knowledge, just some degree that the muscles might retain.
 

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Isn't "Muscle memory" more of a mental state then a physical one? I mean, the memory isn't in the muscle, muscles don't have memory, the memory is in the brain.

Anyway, this is an interesting topic. I would think, or I'd like to think for story's sake, that if someone popped into a recently dead body, that the deep seated memories of that brain would still be in there, so the new inhabitant would indeed have an unexplainable accent, an unexplainable urge to eat McDonald's fries with mayo, an unexplainable urge to turn left on a certain street because that's where they used to live.
 

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I would doubt a memory of advanced skills though. Just a basic reaction. A matter of opinion, obviously. I think this would be a hard one to prove. ;)
 

Mr Flibble

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The mind and the body are not separate, but I'd bet you dollars to dingleberries that memories are not stored in the heart, and that story is made up.

Just as likely. I only thought it might mean you could get away with it in your story - if you used this as a basis. This is fiction after all :)


Though a transplant of a digestive organ might lead to certain changes in taste, as the new one might not cope as well with unfamiliar foods, and the new owner might subconciously adapt away from food that upsets them and to new food that the organ is accustomed to. I have no real idea, thats just speculation.

Actually the changes in tastes have been documented mostly in heart transplant patients ( and they didn't know to begin with what tastes the donor had, so it couldn't be psychowassname). Weird but true.
 

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You should read Altered Carbon. One of the main premises of the book is that minds can be digitized and swapped in and out of bodies. The author does a lot of playing around with what is part of your mind and what is physical, specifically in the area of romantic interactions. I'm not really spoiling anything here, but the MC gets "sleeved" into a body which has a romantic history with another character. When he is in this body, he experiences some very strong physical/chemical reactions; when he is in a different body, he realizes that all of those feelings are gone.
 

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I would be super-skeptical of such claims. Muscle memory is one thing, but thats not so much in the muscle itself, but the Cerebellum part of the brain. If Igor transplanted brains, then she should have her own muscle memory, which may or may not be able to cope with the change of body. If we are being spiritual about this, we can assume that since the cerebellum is not part of the voluntary nervous system (??is it?) it would stay with 'its' body, and thus the host would still have it. This is the problem with dualism. The mind and the body are not separate, but I'd bet you dollars to dingleberries that memories are not stored in the heart, and that story is made up.

Actually I read recently that they've discovered that the heart actually does have some brain tissue/cells in it. These are connected to the brain and part of the system that keeps your heart pumping regularly, etc. It's almost like a "tiny brain" that communicates with the brain. So technically if it is able to store some information, then there's a (very small) possibility that it could store some other information, like memories or tastes or whatever.
 

Perle_Rare

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IMHO, accent is really the way a person pronounces words. For example, my first language is French so when I speak English, my French accent comes through.

If I were to wake up in your body, regardless of which languages you're familiar with, French would still be my first language and I would still pronounce English the same way I do as myself. Your body would simply provide the vocal cords and hence, the voice.

Another example: If person A woke up in person B's body, there's no reason why A would say "nucular" instead of "nuclear" if they never got it wrong before just because B always did.

Here, of course, I'm assuming that though I'm now in your body, my knowledge, thought processes and previous life experiences came along with me. Otherwise, I'd simply be you in your body... wouldn't I? :D
 

Shweta

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If she has memory of her past, then I think she would retain an accent. That is dependant on what speech you grew up hearing.


But I think it's also dependent on your tongue muscles, which of them are used how. And your neural patterns associated with speaking a certain way, which are, y'know, brain patterns of connectivity, which the body might well retain.

Isn't "Muscle memory" more of a mental state then a physical one? I mean, the memory isn't in the muscle, muscles don't have memory, the memory is in the brain.

Hard to say exactly. It's partly the motor system of the brain, and partly the motoneurons, which go to the muscles.

There are some interesting studies on memory which might play in here. HM was a famous patient (searchable I'm sure) who became unable to retain long-term memories after an operation. So he could talk to you but if you left the room and came back in he couldn't remember having met you.

However, they taught him a puzzle game and, while he couldn't remember learning the game, he performed better every time they got him to play it.

So... muscle memory yes, rules no, strategy yes? The brain is weird.
 

Smiling Ted

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Sarpedon's on the nose. I'm mighty skeptical of these claims, too.

Pearsall's book makes a claim not for muscle memory, but for cellular memory. Of course, if our cells actually carried memory, then we'd get someone else's memories every time we had a blood or bone marrow transfusion. Why did Pearsall choose the heart, and not, oh, the liver or the kidney? Because we still think of the heart as the seat of emotion, love, and spiritual feelings.

Also notice that Pearsall wrote this book as a mass-market tome, not a research paper...as anyone seriously advancing this as a scientific claim would have done. The paper would have been subjected to peer review and scientific examination of his claims. Perhaps he felt they might not have stood up?

However, Shweta's story of HM, the man who forgot every day, is a classic case of pure anterograde amnesia, which is a rare but well-documented condition. It's sometimes called Korsakoff's Syndrome, which isn't quite correct - Korsakoff's has AR as one of its symptoms.

For some great case histories of Korsakoff's, agnosia, and other weird and disturbing memory and thought disorders, I highly recommend the books of Oliver Sacks.
 
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Mr Flibble

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Also notice that Pearsall wrote this book as a mass-market tome, not a research paper...as anyone seriously advancing this as a scientific claim would have done. The paper would have been subjected to peer review and scientific examination of his claims. Perhaps he felt they might not have stood up?

I only quoted it as a basis for a beleiveable fictionalised reason for the accent to stay. Sorry if I wasn't clear.

Although there was one case in a local paper here of a guy who had a transplant and suddenly only wanted to eat KFC, which he'd previously hated. Strangely when he got in touch with the donor's family, the donor was a KFC nut. How true it is I don't know....but it makes you think. Could be a basis for a great Sci Fi story.

Basically as no one has swapped bodies, we aren't going to know exactly are we?
 
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Sassee

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Isn't "Muscle memory" more of a mental state then a physical one? I mean, the memory isn't in the muscle, muscles don't have memory, the memory is in the brain.

The brain is a muscle, isn't it? :p

Anyway, this is an interesting topic. I would think, or I'd like to think for story's sake, that if someone popped into a recently dead body, that the deep seated memories of that brain would still be in there, so the new inhabitant would indeed have an unexplainable accent, an unexplainable urge to eat McDonald's fries with mayo, an unexplainable urge to turn left on a certain street because that's where they used to live.

I would agree with this.

Actually I read recently that they've discovered that the heart actually does have some brain tissue/cells in it. These are connected to the brain and part of the system that keeps your heart pumping regularly, etc. It's almost like a "tiny brain" that communicates with the brain. So technically if it is able to store some information, then there's a (very small) possibility that it could store some other information, like memories or tastes or whatever.

Eeeeenteresting.

Chaos, sounds like you have a good case for keeping that accent, and we may have given you some other ideas now for what else to incorporate from the new body (if you haven't already done so).
 

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Sarpedon's on the nose. I'm mighty skeptical of these claims, too.

Pearsall's book makes a claim not for muscle memory, but for cellular memory. Of course, if our cells actually carried memory, then we'd get someone else's memories every time we had a blood or bone marrow transfusion. Why did Pearsall choose the heart, and not, oh, the liver or the kidney? Because we still think of the heart as the seat of emotion, love, and spiritual feelings.

Also notice that Pearsall wrote this book as a mass-market tome, not a research paper...as anyone seriously advancing this as a scientific claim would have done. The paper would have been subjected to peer review and scientific examination of his claims. Perhaps he felt they might not have stood up?

Statistically proven or not, the story in iRu's Pearsall snippet really captured my imagination. I googled Pearsall and found a lengthy article by him on the same subject from Nexus magazine, parts of which were also in Near Death Journal. I don't know if either of those are peer-reviewed, but I would guess their markets aren't mass. In these articles the organ is usually the heart, but in the author's note, Pearsall remarks that it was his own bone marrow transplant that sparked his interest in the subject. Fictionalizing (if they aren't fiction already) any of the case studies in Pearsall's article would make a fantastic book in the hands of the right writer. (Oh, reading more carefully, I see now that iRu has already said the samting. Great minds like a think, don't they!)

My thought on your original question, CT, is that maybe the woman in the new body hears herself speaking with a different accent, but it's not discernible to others? Or verse visa?
 

Shweta

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Yes, the brain is an organ. Not a muscle. A hideously complex system of nerve cells (neurons) held together with structural cells, with a great deal of blood being pumped through it.

Has the consistency of jelly, pretty much, only it's fragile too. Which is why head injuries are Bad.

Even if a heart has nerves, I don't see how they'd connect up to a new brain in any meaningful way to share information. Nerves don't generally regrow. That's why spinal injuries are so bad.
 
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