Affiliations: Department of Biomedical and Neuromotor Sciences, University of Bologna, Piazza di Porta S.Donato, 2, 40126, Bologna, Italy. Tel.: +39 051 2091731; Fax: +39 051 2091737; E-mail: [email protected]
Abstract: While human hibernation would provide many advantages for medical applications and space exploration, the intrinsic risks of the procedure itself, as well as those involved if the procedure were to be misused, need to be assessed. Moreover, the distinctive brain state that is present during a hibernation-like state raises questions regarding the state of consciousness of the subject. Since, in animal studies, the cortical activity of this state differs from that of sleep, coma, or even general anesthesia, and resembles a sort of “slowed wakefulness”, it is uncertain whether residual consciousness may still be present. In this review, I will present a brief summary of the literature on hibernation and of the current state of the art in inducing a state of artificial hibernation (synthetic torpor); I will then focus on the brain changes that are observed during hibernation, on how these could modify the neural substrate of consciousness, and on the possible use of hibernation as a model for quantum biology. Finally, some ethical considerations on the use of synthetic torpor technology will be presented.