A new study out of the University of Michigan has renewed interest in understanding near-death experiences. The study was entitled “Surge of neurophysiological coherence and connectivity in the dying brain” and published July 2013 online on Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (pnas.org).
The experiences of heart attack sufferers prompted the study into observing the activity of the brain when deprived of oxygen and glucose, as it would experience during this kind of event. The group took laboratory rats and monitored their brain activity throughout the process of inducing both heart attacks and asphyxiation.
What they found in both cases was an increase, not a decrease, of electrical activity in the rat brain within 30 seconds after the event. According to the the study, “the gamma oscillations during cardiac arrest were global and highly coherent;” indicating highly organized functioning of the brain.
Jimo Borjigin, an author of the study, said she hopes her team’s latest study “will form the foundation for future human studies investigating mental experience occurring in the dying brain, including seeing light during cardiac arrest.” *
While this is, indeed, interesting news, it is hardly the missing scientific link proving, or disproving, near-death experiences.
Anders Sandberg, a research fellow at Oxford University said about the study, “EEG tells us things about the brain’s activity a bit like listening to traffic noise tells you what is going on in a city. It is certainly informative, but also an average of a lot of individual interactions.”
This study, however, is just one of many scientific inquiries that has been made into the understanding of near-death experiences. The most promising, and perhaps one of the least known studies has been by Dr. Rick Strassman, author of DMT: The Spirit Molecule. *
Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound of the tryptamine family. DMT is present everywhere, such as plants and in mammals, as it is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter similar in structure to serotonin.
There is evidence that shows that DMT is not only related to near-death experiences, but to dreaming as well.
According to research done by Dr. Narayanan Ning Juan, DMT is produced by the pineal gland when we are asleep. It is typically secreted in small quantities during REM sleep. Which may be a reason we have such vivid dreams during that phase of sleep.
However, prior to death, it is secreted in large quantities which causes hallucinations, explaining what many people have experienced. This may be, perhaps, a more accurate picture as to why there is a continuity of experience between these highly individual events.
Perhaps the electrical activity of a brain deprived of oxygen and glucose during heart attack or asphyxiation, is another indication of the work of DMT as the brain becomes flooded with this particular neurotransmitter. Yet, until more detailed work is done with human brains during this process, it is an untested hypothesis, albeit with some promise in understanding near-death experiences in this new study.
By Iam Bloom