Curious

Here’s What Happens to Your Brain When You Die

We had absolutely no idea that this was possible.

Maybe sometimes you picture yourself how you walk through a field or maybe you are surrounded by the people that love you. Or perhaps you are trying to make your way through a long and dark tunnel, where at the end you are looking at a brilliant, beckoning light.

Most probably, this experience will be a secret known only by you, but whatever this is, researchers think that these closing moments of consciousness may actually be powered by something really mysterious that is taking place inside your head.

Back in 2013, scientists at the Michigan University have found that after clinical death occurred in rats, actually their brain activity flared, while revealing electrical signatures of consciousness that exceeded levels that can be found in the waking state of the animal.

One member of the crew, the neurologist Jimo Borjigin, said: “We reasoned that if near-death experience stems from brain activity, neural correlates of consciousness should be identifiable in humans or animals even after the cessation of cerebral blood flow.”

The detection of this phenomenon was quite a revelation, to the extent it actually may disprove the known notion that just because blood flow has ceased as a result of clinical death, the brain must be necessarily rendered simultaneously inert.

“This study tells us that reduction of oxygen or both oxygen and glucose during cardiac arrest can stimulate brain activity that is characteristic of conscious processing,” explained Borjigin.

“It also provides the first scientific framework for the near-death experiences reported by many cardiac arrest survivors.”

To be fair, even if this recent findings are here to establish a new framework for interpreting where near-death experiences actually are maybe coming from, this does not necessary follow that humans would have the same cognitive flare as rats journeying beyond the veil.

But, if there is a chance that our brains maybe surge in the same way, this could be really helpful in order to explain the sense of awareness that was reported by a lot of people who are successfully resuscitated in some kinds of medical emergencies.

The scientist Sam Parnia from the Stony Brook University is very interested in this topic and he actually published a book back in 2014 and this is the largest study in the world that is examining near death experiences.

So far, he actually had interviews with something more than 100 survivors of cardiac arrest, 46% retained memories of their brush with death, centred around a large number of common themes, including bright lights, fear and family.

“We know the brain can’t function when the heart has stopped beating, but in this case conscious awareness appears to have continued for up to three minutes into the period when the heart wasn’t beating,” Parnia said for The National Post, “even though the brain typically shuts down within 20 to 30 seconds after the heart has stopped.”

This really sounds amazing, but it’s worth noting that the phenomenon was only reported by 2% of the patients. Later on, even Parnia himself said that “the easiest explanation is that most probably – this is an illusion.

The neurologist Cameron Shaw who from the Deaking University from Australia, earlier this year said for vice: “Look, I’m skeptical. I think out-of-body experiences have been debunked, just because the mechanisms that produce sight and record memories are inoperative.

Our sense of self, our sense of humor, our ability to think ahead – that stuff all goes within the first 10 to 20 seconds,” Julian Morgans explained Vice.

“Then, as the wave of blood-starved brain cells spread out, our memories and language centres short out, until we’re left with just a core.”

This is maybe not a very encouraging outlook, but it is actually worth nothing that it also doesn’t accord with the experience of rats, and the researchers are still trying to find evidence of surprising biological processes that are continuing to thrive even some days after death stakes its claim.

So, unfortunately, the research isn’t yet conclusive.

As we said in the past – when the curtain is drawn, we really have no idea of what’s actually going to feel or look like. But one is for sure – that at some point, we are going to find out.

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