Reports of near-death experiences are in no short supply. Thousands of people have told similar tales after they’ve been at death’s door. The stories seem to be very similar: A tunnel appears, and then a bright light. Sometimes, the person’s loved ones line the tunnel, welcoming them to the afterlife. The light is often described as peaceful, all-encompassing, and “more real than real.” Some people claim that the light is God, others say it’s pure love. These experiences have been the subject of multitudes of books, television shows and movies. Now, a new study just released and published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science may have explained this phenomenon.
The study was performed at John Hopkins and is entitled Surge of neurophysiological coherence and connectivity in the dying brain. While the study was conducted on rats, researchers feel that the results explain the brain processes that occur in human beings at the time of death.
Lead researchers Jimo Borjigin and Michael Wang say their research suggests that the dying brain produces a burst of heightened consciousness that can be observed by several measurements, including “gamma frequency, “feedback connectivity,” and “cross frequency coupling.” Borjigin explained:
…what is really interesting is that the coherence [in the dying rats] is more than two-fold higher than in their waking state. This suggests that after cardiac arrest, there is a kind of hyper-consciousness in the brain, with all of the neurons acting together in far more coherence than normal.
This upswing in neuron firing could account for the vivid and “hyper real” encounters experienced by those who report near death experiences. The abstract of the study states:
…We identified a transient surge of synchronous gamma oscillations that occurred within the first 30 s after cardiac arrest…. Gamma oscillations during cardiac arrest were global and highly coherent; …High-frequency neurophysiological activity in the near-death state exceeded levels found during the conscious waking state. These data demonstrate that the mammalian brain can, albeit paradoxically, generate neural correlates of heightened conscious processing at near-death.
The study shows that even after blood has stopped flowing and the heart has ceased beating, the brain remains active, and this could account for its ability to envision the tunnel, the light, loved ones and God. Not only does the brain remain active, say researchers, but it enters into a state of extremely heightened awareness. This expanded awareness may explain the sense survivors have that their experiences were “even more real than reality.”
Researchers say the study is the first of its kind and will provide a strong foundation for the ongoing research into what happens to the brain after the heart has ceased to beat. Have near death experiences been explained by this new study? Some comments under numerous articles show that the public seems to be highly doubtful. A few people have expressed the belief that this scientific experiment was done just for the purpose of disproving people’s experiences. One commenter said:
..sounds like you are going out of your way to attempt to disprove people’s experiences…..why are you doing this ? is it your own lack of any faith, that you have to make sure everyone else disbelieves too ??????
As with any study, getting the public on board with the results often takes time and years of additional studies and meta analyses before the outcome is widely accepted.
By: Rebecca Savastio