Near-Death Experiences: heightened conscious processing Brains Of Dying Rats Yield Clues About Near-Death Experiences
August 12, 2013
A burst of brain activity just after the heart stops may be the cause of so-called near-death experiences, scientists say.
The insight comes from research involving nine lab rats whose brains were analyzed as they were being euthanized.
Researchers discovered what appears to be a momentary increase in electrical activity in the brain associated with consciousness.
Just after the rats’ hearts stopped, there was a burst of brain activity.
Their brain suddenly seemed to go into overdrive, showing all the hallmarks not only of consciousness but a kind of hyperconsciousness.
“We found continued and heightened activity,” Borjigan says. “Measurable conscious activity is much, much higher after the heart stops — within the first 30 seconds.”
Borjigin and her colleagues think they essentially discovered the neurological basis for near-death experiences.
“That really just, just really blew our mind. … That really is consistent with what patients report,” she says.
Patients report that what they experienced felt more real than reality — so intense that it’s often described as life-altering.
But Borjigan thinks the phenomenon is really just the brain going on hyperalert to survive while at the same time trying to make sense of all those neurons firing. It’s sort of like a more intense version of dreaming.
“The near-death experience is perhaps is really the byproduct of the brain’s attempt to save itself,” she says.
Surge of neurophysiological coherence and connectivity in the dying brain
Jimo Borjigin, et al.
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.