The Science Behind “Near-Death Experiences”

Brain by Sven Gabriel CC BY 3.0

Some patients who survive cardiac arrest report a distinctive “near-death experience.” They describe seeing light and experiencing a sense of heightened reality, but physicians have debated if a dying brain is actually capable of such activity.

A recent study from the University of Michigan Health System sought to explore this phenomenon. This is the first study of its kind, and found some surprising results. They found that in rats, shortly after clinical death, displayed brain activity patterns very similar to conscious perception. In fact, many known electrical signatures actually exceeded levels found during normal consciousness. This suggests that the brain is capable of much more during early stages of clinical death than earlier imagined.

According to Jimo Borjigin, associate professor at University of Michigan Medical School, “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.”

To learn more about this fascinating development, you can read the full study here.

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