Broward News

Surfing on Brain Waves to the Fountain of Youth

American consumers spend billions every year to learn what the American Medical Association just told the world yesterday, for free: that hormone therapy cannot halt the human aging process. Or at least that they've found no scientific evidence to prove it.

This figures to be a setback for BodyLogicMD, the Boca Raton-based firm that connects customers to a field of 30 "anti-aging" physicians and which made the counter-intuitive decision to advertise on the same page as an article that suggests its doctors' treatments have no merit.

But there's a tradition of seeking the Fountain of Youth in Florida that dates to Ponce de Leon's exploration in the 16th Century, and a Fort Lauderdale researcher named Alan O'Donnell has embarked on a quest of his own. O'Donnell believes he's on the brink of a technological breakthrough that would allow him to achieve the immortal human mind, rather than the immortal human body that was the vision of hormone therapy promoters.

With a new, state-of-the-art EEG machine, O'Donnell says he can capture 256 different locations for brainwaves in the cerebral cortex. Combined with another new technology that captures gamma waves, he says it's possible to download and save a person's consciousness. "Two hundred years from now, let's say we can take a much younger body and overlay that with an older person's mind," muses O'Donnell. "You can live your life again as a 16-year-old."

O'Donnell, who has a background in chemistry, physics and biology, has worked as a researcher at the University of Southern California, a scientific laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is recently returned from a 2-year sabbatical in the Canary Islands during which he wrote a book about dark matter. He settled in South Florida to be closer to family. And now he's looking for private investors to fund his research. "No university will sign up for it, because it's so far in the future," O'Donnell says. "We have to prove what we're doing first."

O'Donnell acknowledges that "there's a lot of questions that need to be answered about the ethics of this thing" but expresses cheerful optimism that mankind will work out these fine points over the next few centuries. In the meantime, he figures his consciousness capturing technology will prove to be a popular (and perhaps more cost-effective) hedge against mortality than cryogenic freezing.

The whole thing sounds pretty far-fetched, and one almost hopes it fails. After all, the ravages of time represent mankind's only chance to oust the Jonas Brothers from the Billboard Top 40.

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Thomas Francis