Near-death experiences are ‘electrical surge in dying brain’

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A surge of electrical activity in the brain could be responsible for the vivid experiences described by near-death survivors, scientists report.

A study carried out on dying rats found high levels of brainwaves at the point of the animals' demise.

US researchers said that in humans this could give rise to a heightened state of consciousness.


The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The lead author of the study, Dr Jimo Borjigin, of the University of Michigan, said: "A lot of people thought that the brain after clinical death was inactive or hypoactive, with less activity than the waking state, and we show that is definitely not the case.

"If anything, it is much more active during the dying process than even the waking state."

Consciousness

However, studying this in humans is a challenge, and these visions are little understood.

To find out more, scientists at the University of Michigan monitored nine rats as they were dying.

In the 30-second period after the animal's hearts stopped beating, they measured a sharp increase in high-frequency brainwaves called gamma oscillations.

These pulses are one of the neuronal features that are thought to underpin consciousness in humans, especially when they help to "link" information from different parts of the brain.

In the rats, these electrical pulses were found at even higher levels just after the cardiac arrest than when animals were awake and well.

Dr Borjigin said it was feasible that the same thing would happen in the human brain, and that an elevated level of brain activity and consciousness could give rise to near-death visions.

"This can give us a framework to begin to explain these. The fact they see light perhaps indicates the visual cortex in the brain is highly activated – and we have evidence to suggest this might be the case, because we have seen increased gamma in area of the brain that is right on top of the visual cortex," she said.

"We have seen increased coupling between the lower-frequency waves and the gamma that has been shown to be a feature of visual awareness and visual sensation."

However, she said that to confirm the findings a study would have to be carried out on humans who have experienced clinical death and have been revived.

Commenting on the research, Dr Jason Braithwaite, of the University of Birmingham, said the phenomenon appeared to be the brain's "last hurrah".

"This is a very neat demonstration of an idea that's been around for a long time: that under certain unfamiliar and confusing circumstances – like near-death – the brain becomes overstimulated and hyperexcited," he said.

Written By: By Rebecca Morelle, Science reporter, BBC World Service
continue to source article at bbc.co.uk

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  1. I’d happily – from my current perspective at least – submit my dying days to this sort of experimentation. If I’m “lucky” enough to have a heads up on when that’s likely to occur, I really do think I’d be calling up someone from the science community to see if anyone’s interested in hooking up some wires.

    This next bit may seem morbid, but I’ve also always wished to be fully conscious in my last seconds on earth. I want to see what all the transitional fuss is about – or at least enjoy one last bit of the human potential for thrilling mind events. One of the two most significant events of my lifetime, and I must have slept through the first one, my birth…I just can’t account for it. Tragic.

    In any case, I’d like to see this whole NDE thing irrefutably “laid to rest” once and for all, if it hasn’t already been…and if finally, overwhelmingly, debunking something like this is even possible with someone addicted to credulousness..

    • In reply to #1 by AntithiChrist:

      I’d happily – from my current perspective at least – submit my dying days to this sort of experimentation. If I’m “lucky” enough to have a heads up on when that’s likely to occur, I really do think I’d be calling up someone from the science community to see if anyone’s interested in hooking up some…

      Surely the word is credulity?

      I’d like to advance science, but…well…I can think of much more anthropological ways io spend my last five minutes.XXXXX

    • In reply to #1 by AntithiChrist:

      This next bit may seem morbid, but I’ve also always wished to be fully conscious in my last seconds on earth. I want to see what all the transitional fuss is about – or at least enjoy one last bit of the human potential for thrilling mind events….

      I may be a coward but I think I’m with Woody Allen on this…”I don’t mind dying I just don’t want to be around when it happens.” ;)

    • In reply to #2 by aquilacane:

      In related news:
      Rats go to heaven

      Christians could interpret the results to mean rats go to hell. Their bible says only predestined 144,000 male virgins go to heaven. Nearly everyone goes to hell,

  2. Sensational headline: Near-death experiences are ‘electrical surge in dying brain’

    Reasonable last sentence: “[But] we should be extremely cautious before drawing any conclusions about human near-death experiences: it is one thing to measure brain activity in rats during cardiac arrest, and quite another to relate that to human experience.”

    giggity

    • In reply to #7 by giggity:

      Sensational headline: Near-death experiences are ‘electrical surge in dying brain’

      Reasonable last sentence: “[But] we should be extremely cautious before drawing any conclusions about human near-death experiences: it is one thing to measure brain activity in rats during cardiac arrest, and quite…

      I wanted to say the same thing. Also the article starts with “could”, yet the title is claiming victory… there’s no difference between this and “proof of the afterlife found” type of articles.

    • In reply to #8 by Nitya:

      I’ve often wondered if death is accompanied by a sudden surge of endorphins? I hope so. The prospect of a few blissful seconds before the lights go out completely would be welcome.

      For the sake of my deceased loved ones, I hope so too.

  3. Does this book Americans a passage from the electric chair directly to heaven?

    It reminds me of the joke about the priest and the condemned Catholic murderer, – “Do you have a last request my son?” -
    “Please give me the Last Rites and will you hold my hand father”?

  4. Wednesday’s “Thought for the Day” on BBC Radio4 discussed this research. In one of the most blatantly stupid examples of these intrusive religious monologues, Akhandadhi Das suggested the rat findings could be interpreted as evidence of the soul gearing up to leave the body. Of course, he doesn’t bother to define what the soul consists of or to spell out exactly where it goes when it leaves the body. Why does the BBC persist in bombarding its audiences with this tosh?!

    • In reply to #10 by FrankMill:

      Wednesday’s “Thought for the Day” on BBC Radio4 discussed this research. In one of the most blatantly stupid examples of these intrusive religious monologues, Akhandadhi Das suggested the rat findings could be interpreted as evidence of the soul gearing up to leave the body. Of course, he doesn’t…

      I was going to write that! Great minds? Fools?

    • In reply to #10 by FrankMill:

      Wednesday’s “Thought for the Day” on BBC Radio4 discussed this research. In one of the most blatantly stupid examples of these intrusive religious monologues, Akhandadhi Das suggested the rat findings could be interpreted as evidence of the soul gearing up to leave the body. Of course, he doesn’t…
      Tim Winter, aka Abdel Hakim Murad, the academic convert to Islam who is lost in the ancient desert myths of Islam he mistakes for reality, in the same Radio 4 Today programme ‘Thought for the Day’ slot on the day of the A level results;Thursday August 15th was banging on about the ‘soul’ with equal conviction that there is one. I’ve only ever seen ‘the Soul’ in terms of metaphor -and he is certainly a lost soul. Lost in the myth Islam is. Why did the BBC thrust this faux wiseacre lost in the refined and rarefied mystical delusion of the Sufi branch of Islam upon us that morning to bang on about the A level results, whilst in the real world of Islam Egypt and Syria burn?
      Will Tim / Abdel’s ‘soul’ one day arrive in Islam’s particular version of ‘Disney World Heaven After Death’… along with Akhandadhi Das’ rat? I guess not. Come on Tim!

  5. “Last hurrah” immediately reminded me of an evening about twenty years ago when our daughters were about two years old, and during a party at our flat we put them to bed and, they both started bawling their eyes out at an ear ringing pitch as they drifted into sleep, in the way that the flame of a candle will flare up just before it goes out. One of our guests turned to me wide eyed and open mouthed his hands covering his ears!

    I remember saying to him I think they’re going to be singers.

    So the “last gasp” could well apply here I suppose.

    • In reply to #13 by Lonard:

      Sooner rather than later christians will say that this electrical surge of the brain is proof that the ‘soul’ takes off like a Saturn rocket, leaving the body.

      Conversely, a portion of free-thinker Gene Roddenberry’s ashes, are purported to gently cruise the cosmos via solar sail next year. Now that’s poetry in motion.

  6. I’ve attended 2 or 3 Christian services in my life. The first by mistake, the other two were funerals. I can safely describe them as near death experiences. Indeed the electricity went out in my brain. The bullshit blew the fuses.

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