Some unfortunate soul has ended up like Cliff Steele from Doom Patrol; his brain has been removed from its original body, suspended in a vat of life-sustaining liquid, and wired up to a new, robotic body.

Thing is, Doom Patrol kinda failed to explore some of the more physical consequences such a procedure might entail, such as phantom limb syndrome.

Thus, I pose this question;

What might these physical consequences be for Cliff, or someone in an identical predicament?

Stuff to consider:

  • The body has visual and audio sensors and a speaker that lets it talk. However, the visual is a tad grainy at times, the sounds are a bit flat, and the speech is a little staticky.
  • The robot body moves almost exactly like a normal human being, but please note the emphasis on the word almost. It doesn't have an animate face, for example, and can't do facial expressions.
  • The body has no olfactory, tactile, or gustatory sensors, and in fact, does not require food or water. In essence, the body can't feel, smell, or taste stuff.
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Are you asking physical or mental? Phantom limb is firmly rooted in the mind. We can argue everything goes through a physical brain, but that seems far fetched. Could you make this clear? $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Aug 21, 2022 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ (a) We need to convert this from an off-topic infinite list of things to an on-topic finite list of things. (b) This subject has been investigated in scifi from Shelly's Frankenstein to McCaffrey's The Ship Who Sang to Russell's Altered States and Verhoeven's Robocop. (c) Sensory deprivation has also been the subject of a considerable number of scientific papers. What has any of this taught you? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Aug 21, 2022 at 23:34
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    $\begingroup$ How well does the vat emulate the conditions the brain had inside its human body? For example, some hormones are produced outside a human brain - would the brain in the vat still be provided with the same "natural" amount of them? If the vat simulates all conditions perfectly (as I suspect is the intend here) that is of course fine. I just thought to clarify since other aspects of the robotic body are less then perfect replicas. $\endgroup$
    – user91641
    Aug 21, 2022 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ Wasn't this question asked a few weeks ago? ah no, that question was about the blood supply wasn't it? $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Aug 22, 2022 at 0:43
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    $\begingroup$ we can't even build robots that reliably walk without tactile sensation why would you leave that out? an upright body needs constant adjustments for balance. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Aug 22, 2022 at 1:54

2 Answers 2


It depends on their willpower.

Wielding an alien body with no taste or smell? That's what happens to everyone in VR. The human brain is very adaptive, and can handle entirely new limbs and body parts and alien sensations. It has to be adaptive. Humans constantly change shape and size, and injuries often force us to change how we move.

And people regularly lose their sense of taste and smell, from covid or blocked nose or a variety of sources. It sucks, but it can be handled. Human brains can even quickly adapt to having their vision flipped.

You'd experience significant dysphoria, yes, especially if you looked in a mirror, but the human brain is inherently adaptive. It could handle some weird body stuff.


There is a significant issue with the bit where you say "the body can't feel". It would be possible for 'Cliff' to control their body without being able to feel exterior objects in any degree of detail (equivalent, perhaps, to wearing thick padding/gloves over their entire body), but without gross pressure sensors or proprioception (the ability to know the relative placement of your own body parts), 'Cliff' would be impractically clumsy.

For example, if they were navigating a completely dark room without the above sensations, they couldn't tell if they were actually walking or if they had fallen on their face and were just kicking inefectively at the ground. Similarly, in any interaction with physical objects they would risk applying too little or too much force - and would not know if they had picked up an object they were reaching for without specifically looking at their hand.


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