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NDE Discovery: Brain Found to Be 'Highly Active' Just After Death

The near-death experience reported by cardiac arrest survivors worldwide may be grounded in science, according to research at the University of Michigan.

Previously, it was not believed that the brain could be active after death, but now it appears that there is a burst of superconsicous activity for about 30 seconds AFTER its blood flow has stopped. Some scientists are saying that this is proof that the near-death experience is 'all in the brain,' but others aren't so sure.

A U-M study showed shortly after clinical death, in which the heart stops beating and blood stops flowing to the brain, rats display brain activity patterns characteristic of conscious perception.

“This study, performed in animals, is the first dealing with what happens to the neurophysiological state of the dying brain,” says lead study author Jimo Borjigin, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular and integrative physiology and associate professor of neurology at the University of Michigan Medical School.

“It will form the foundation for future human studies investigating mental experiences occurring in the dying brain, including seeing light during cardiac arrest,” she says.

Approximately 20 percent of cardiac arrest survivors report having had a near-death experience during clinical death. These visions and perceptions have been called “realer than real,” according to previous research, but it remains unclear whether the brain is capable of such activity after cardiac arrest.

“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,” she says.

Researchers analyzed the recordings of brain activity called electroencephalograms (EEGs) from nine anesthetized rats undergoing experimentally induced cardiac arrest.

Within the first 30 seconds after cardiac arrest, all of the rats displayed a widespread, transient surge of highly synchronized brain activity that had features associated with a highly aroused brain.

“The prediction that we would find some signs of conscious activity in the brain during cardiac arrest was confirmed with the data,” says Borjigin, who conceived the idea for the project in 2007 with study co-author neurologist Michael M. Wang, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neurology and associate professor of molecular and integrative physiology at the U-M.

“But, we were surprised by the high levels of activity,” adds study senior author anesthesiologist George Mashour, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of anesthesiology and neurosurgery at the U-M. “ In fact, at near-death, many known electrical signatures of consciousness exceeded levels found in the waking state, suggesting that the brain is capable of well-organized electrical activity during the early stage of clinical death.”

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

Does it mean that the entire near-death experience takes place in the brain, or that this is a sign of the soul leaving the brain? That particular question as yet has not been answered.

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Personally, I think that this is the brain gathering information for the soul to carry with it. Otherwise, why would the perception be of leaving for another realm? Why wouldn't it simply be random? Of course it's not proof that it's 'all in the brain.' To me, it's proof of the opposite. It is the moment of departure.

I keep trying to catch just a glimpse of "truth" that might help to explain life, the universe and everything (to borrow from Douglas Adams.) To me, this article describes either 1) the soul packing for a long trip or 2) another manifestation of the fight or flight response. Because of my own near-death-experience memories I tend to think it is the former.

Here's an interesting conversation with Grant Cameron. It's long (3 hours), but worth the listen, even if done in bites; some of the most interesting ideas are presented in the later part of the interview. It's free on iTunes:

My 92 year old Father died from cardiac arrest just 5 weeks ago. I went to his house and found him "dead". After my initial shock and horror I went back into the room grabbed his hand, his head and leg and told him how much I loved him and that we would be together again. I feel we don't leave our bodies quickly and we remain for awhile. I hope he saw and heard me. I think he did. Besides he's now with my Mother who died in 2011 and Daddy was lost without her. They are together again after 65 years of marriage.

If the soul was some sort of electromagnetic field, this study would seem to show the measurable effects of it interacting with the brain. With the rest of the electrical field shut off throughout the body, the only thing keeping the brain active could be the soul. The classic nde, would then seem to be a perception of the soul as interpreted by the brain. This leads to a perplexing question: How is consciousness perceived when the soul is not mediated by the brain?

My father was a teacher. In 1974 he had a heart attack, which he survived after being shocked 17 times by his nephew, who had just graduated med school. The following is an excerpt of a beautiful, but lengthy account of his experience. "I felt a glorious sense of freedom. I felt light, airy and filled with a sense of happiness that I can't explain. .... I know people feel that one is just having hallucinations, but I and others I've read about know better. It is the soul free of the physical body--and what a glorious feeling it is! There before me was the most splendid light--it is really indescribable. It was everywhere before me. It sparkled and glittered with a brilliance I've never beheld before. I try to compare it with the sun shining through the trees and foliage after a winter ice storm, but even that, with it's earthly beauty, doesn't compare to it. You can't describe it, but it seemed to draw you toward it. It seemed to have life and a personality. ....You know you are really yourself and your thinking is clear as crystal--but there's no body, as we know it with you. ..... I have no doubt that we have a soul that will live on through eternity and that we have no comprehension of God's greatness and beauty until we get into the spiritual realm that is in our future. I'm sure Jesus was in the light I beheld. He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the Light." His words have brought me great comfort, and I hope they will you, too.

Pinky5 - bingo!! as we have heard from so many, we are really spirit beings having an earthly experience....and this dimension is dense, sure that the hightened activity of the brain is pure delicious delight at the realization of finally being free if one has completed their be reunited with the true perfection of our loving creator and feel the undescribable warmth of unconditional love would be the biggest high imaginable....we need the human ego to get by on Earth, but it sometimes can also be a huge stumbling block to thinking outside of the box...glad the funding for this type of research is available...

“But, we were surprised by the high levels of activity,” adds study senior author anesthesiologist George Mashour, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of anesthesiology and neurosurgery at the U-M. “ In fact, at near-death, many known electrical signatures of consciousness EXCEEDED LEVELS FOUND IN THE WAKING STATE..." [my emphasis]

Perhaps at death, we are actually finally waking up!

To posit this as evidence that NDE's are mere brain chemistry reveals an abject lack of knowledge of the subject and the milestones in this field that have already been established by the NDE researchers. It does not even come close to explaining many of the complicated issues and evidence that NDE is not at all brain chemistry. No need to get into it here, just read the books and the research.

Thank you, Beth1!
The Grant Cameron interview was amazing! He goes almost non-stop for three hours, covering so much material from all aspects of the paranormal. Even if you don't subscribe to all his perceptions (He appears to believe that there is no evil, no Hell), it's totally worth taking the time to hear what he has to say.
Whitley, he might make an interesting Dreamland guest... Just saying...

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