In Death, As In Life: Science Provides Insight Into Near-Death Experiences

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Science News

A multidisciplinary team of researchers has explored near-death experiences to understand what happens to the human brain in relation to death. The consensus statement, titled “Guidelines and Standards for the Study of Death and Recalled Experiences of Death”, is published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

The Study

The researchers combined stem cell research, neuroscience, and resuscitation science to study the physiological and mental events that occur in relation to death or being near death. They reviewed near-death-experience memories linked to cardiac arrest, coma, post-intensive care syndrome, etc. They used scientific tools like cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), electroencephalography (EEG), etc.

The Findings

The results suggest that experiences surrounding death often involve lucid episodes that border on both universal and unique themes. These are also associated with long-term psychological transformation and growth. It is characterized by:

  • Out-of-body experiences
  • Clear recognition of death
  • Heightened consciousness and awareness
  • A sense of traveling
  • A purposeful and meaningful review of life
  • A feeling of “being at home”
  • A return back to life

Paving The Way For Further Research

The researchers further specified that near-death experiences were very different from psychedelic drug-induced hallucinations or illusions, even though both experiences reveal the emergence of high gamma activity and electrical spikes. They also showed how brain cells are more resilient to the effects of near-death anoxia and claimed that physiological and cognitive processes in humans extend beyond death.

One of the lead researchers, Sam Parnia, elaborated: “[The] brain cells do not become irreversibly damaged within minutes of oxygen deprivation when the heart stops. Instead, they ‘die’ over hours of time.”

The researchers are enthusiastic that this research will pave the way for a more objective and scientific study of death in the near future.

To Know More You May Refer To

Parnia, S., Post, S. G., Lee, M. T., Lyubomirsky, S., Aufderheide, T. P., Deakin, C. D., Greyson, B., Long, J., Gonzales, A. M., Huppert, E. L., Dickinson, A., Mayer, S., Locicero, B., Levin, J., Bossis, A., Worthington, E., Fenwick, P., & Shirazi, T. K. (2022). Guidelines and standards for the study of death and recalled experiences of death–a multidisciplinary consensus statement and proposed future directions. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 10.1111/nyas.14740. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.14740

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