Summary: 1 in 5 people who receive CPR will have vivid near-death experiences where they seem unconscious and on the brink of death. Lucid experiences are seen as distinct from illusions, dreams, hallucinations, and delusions. In these exercises, the researchers found that the brain has increased activity and indicators of softness, human self-confidence, like other biological functions, may not stop completely around the time of death.
Source: NYU Langone
After suffering a heart attack, one in five people can describe vivid near-death experiences that happened while they were unconscious and on the brink of death, new research shows.
The study, led by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and others, involved 567 men and women whose hearts stopped beating while in hospital and who received CPR between May 2017 and March 2020 in the United States and the United Kingdom. Even with prompt treatment, less than 10% recover well enough to leave the hospital.
Survivors have reported unique enlightening experiences, including awareness of detachment from the body, observing events without pain or distress, and evaluating the meaning of life, including their actions, intentions, and thoughts for others. The researchers found that these near-death experiences were distinct from hallucinations, delusions, dreams, nightmares, or CPR-induced consciousness.
The work also included hidden brain activity tests. A key finding was the presence of spikes in brain activity, including gamma, delta, theta, alpha and beta waves up to an hour before CPR. Some of these brain waves occur when people are conscious and performing higher mental functions, including thinking, memory retrieval, and conscious awareness.
“These remembered experiences and brain wave changes can be the first signs of approaching death, and we captured them for the first time in a large study,” says Sam Parnia, MD, PhD, lead study investigator. and critical care physician, is an associate professor in the department of medicine at NYU Langone Health, as well as the organization’s director of critical care and resuscitation research.
“Our results show that people engage in a unique internal state of consciousness when they are on the brink of death and in a coma.
The identification of electrical signals that measure lucid and heightened mental activity, along with similar stories of reported near-death experiences, suggests that the human sense of self and consciousness may not completely cease at death, as do other biological functions of the body, Parnia added.
“These lucid experiences cannot be interpreted as delusions of a disordered or dying mind,” says Parnia, “but rather a unique human experience that emerges from the brink of death.”
As the mind shuts down, many of its natural braking systems are released. Known as inhibition, this provides access to the depths of one’s consciousness, including stored memories, thoughts from childhood to death, and other aspects of reality.
Although no one knows the evolutionary purpose of this phenomenon, Parnia clearly raises “interesting questions about human consciousness even in death.”
The study’s authors note that while studies to date cannot prove the reality or meaning of patients’ experiences and perceptions of death, they cannot be dismissed either. They say that the near-death experience now deserves a more realistic examination without prejudice.
Researchers published their research results in 2015. They plan to present on Nov. 6 at the Resuscitation Science Symposium, part of the American Heart Association’s Scientific Session 2022 in Chicago.
25 hospitals in the US and UK participated in the study, AWARE II. Only hospitalized patients were registered for CPR and recovery methods used after cardiac arrest, as well as brain activity recordings. Self-reported memories from 126 community-based heart failure survivors were used in this study to provide further insight into themes related to the remembered death experience.
Parnia said more research is needed to accurately define biomarkers of what is considered clinical consciousness, human memory of death, and to monitor the long-term psychological effects of breathing after cardiac arrest.
Financial support The study was funded and supported by NYU Langone, The John Templeton Foundation and Resuscitation Council (UK) and the UK National Institute for Health Research.
In addition to Parnia, other NYU Langone study investigators include Tara Keshavarz Shirazi, BA; Caitlin O’Neill, MPH; Emma Rolke, MD; Amanda Mengota, MD; Thaddeus Tharpe, PhD; Elise Huppert, MD; Ian Jaffe, BS; Annelie Gonzales, MS; Jing Xu, MS; and Emmeline Koopman, MS. Other study investigators include Deepak Pradhan, MD, at Bellevue Hospital in New York City; Jignesh Patel, MD; Linh Tran, MD; Niraj Sinha, MD; and Rebecca Spiegel, MD, Stony Brook University in NY; Shannon Findlay, MD, University of Iowa in Iowa City; Michael McBrine, MD, Tufts University in Boston; Gavin Perkins, MD, at the University of Warwick in Coventry, UK; Alain Vuylsteck, MD, at the Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Cambridge, UK; Benjamin Bloom, MD, at Barts Health NHS Trust in London, UK; Heather Jarman, RN, at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in London; Hugh Nam Tong, MD, at Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust in King’s Lynn, UK; Louisa Chan, MD, at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Hampshire, UK; Michael Licker, MD, Ohio State University in Columbus; Matthew Thomas, MD, at University Hospitals Bristol and Wexton NHS Foundation Trust in Bristol, UK; Veselin Velchev, MD, St. Anna University in Sofia, Bulgaria; Charles Kearns, MD, of Drexel University in Philadelphia; Rahul Sharma, MD, at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City; Eric Kulstad, MD, at Texas Southwestern University in Dallas; Elizabeth Scharer, M.D. at the University of Texas San Antonio. Terrence O’Keefe, MD, at Augusta University in Augusta, Ga. Mahtab Foroozesh, MD, at Virginia Tech in Roanoke; Olumayowa Abe, MD, New York-Presbyterian in New York City; Chinwe Ogedegbe, MD, Hackensack University in Nutley, NJ; Amira Girgis, MD, at Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Surrey, UK; and Charles Deakin, MD, at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust in Southampton, UK.
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Author: David March
Source: NYU Langone
Contact: David March – NYU Langone
Image: The image is in the public domain.
Preliminary study: The findings will be presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions