A recent study has shown that rats have a surge of brainwave activity thirty seconds after cardiac arrest, at higher levels than when the rat is healthy. This finding has led scientists to believe that near death experiences in humans could be the result of this increased brain activity near to death. To read the findings in detail, please see pnas.org
For some, this will be good enough evidence to explain the near death experience, or at least good enough to go a long way in supporting the argument that NDE’s are the result of brain activity. However, for many, the questions of NDE’s still remain. These questions are here to debate the research and so can be explained or expanded on if you wish to do so.
Regarding the research. If the brain has an increase in activity at the point of death, the experiences people might have may not be similar to NDE’s. For example, comparisons have been drawn between hallucinations whilst under the influence of drugs and the near death experience. However, NDE’s are very different to these type of hallucinations. As with these type of drug hallucinations, the brain activity after a cardiac arrest in rats may produce visions or senses (if the same thing happens in humans) but these may not be able to account for the type of visions and senses a person has during an NDE.
The research doesn’t account for people who have seemingly been outside of their bodies and are able to explain what has happened during their own operations, for example. Many people who have been through an NDE have been able to tell medical staff what they saw in an operating theatre and who was in there. People also recall conversations which took place while they were unconscious.
People have deathbed visions when they are close to death, of seeing family members, for example, who have already died. (There is no indication from this research that this surge in brainwave activity also happens before the point of death, a few days before dying of cancer, for example).
People report of having NDE’s whilst unconscious, but not at the point of death. (Again, the research doesn’t indicate that there is a surge in brainwave activity whilst in a coma, for example).
Some people who have had an NDE have also recovered from serious illness soon after.
It is also important to note that people experience similar things during an NDE and not all people have the same memories within their brain. Experiences such as seeing a white light of love and compassion, of meeting family members, of floating outside of the body, of experiencing more clarity in consciousness amongst other experiences. If NDE’s can be explained by the brain simply shutting down, it seems remarkable that the brain produces such similar and detailed experiences for so many different people.
Finally, when looking at NDE’s, there is so much to them that is premature to be so willing to so easily explain them as brainwave activity. Especially when you also consider the experiences people have who aren’t dying, such as medical staff and hospice carers. Dr Lloyd Rudy talks about a presence in his operating theatre and at that moment, the patient recovered. There are reports of hospice carers who experience changes in room temperature and atmosphere at the time of death and after a patient dies. There is then, it seems, so much more to the dying process than even NDE’s.
Further reading and viewing
Life After Life – Raymond Moody
The Art of Dying – Peter Fenwick
Dr Lloyd Rudy (YouTube)
Anita Moorjani’s account of her NDE and subsequent recovery from cancer (YouTube)