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Near-Death-Experience Study Suggests Awareness Continues After Brain Shuts Down

Scientists at Southampton University said evidence suggests people can be aware after clinical death, something previously not thought possible.

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A new study suggests there may be a small amount of life after death.

The Telegraph reported that the University of Southampton examined 2,060 people who suffered cardiac arrests at 15 hospitals in the UK, the US, and Austria. Of those studied, 330 survived, 140 of whom were interviewed. Fifty-five of those interviewed said they had been aware at the moment of resuscitation.

According to the paper:

They found that nearly 40% of those who survived [i.e. 55 out of 140 interviewed] described some kind of "awareness" during the time when they were clinically dead before their hearts were restarted.

According to the report, 2% described awareness with explicit recall of "seeing" and "hearing" actual events related to their resuscitation, and one man even recalled leaving his body and watching his resuscitation from the corner of the room. He apparently described the actions of the doctors in detail.

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, even though the brain typically shuts down within 20-30 seconds after the heart has stopped. The man described everything that had happened in the room, but importantly, he heard two bleeps from a machine that makes a noise at three-minute intervals.

Many could not recall specific details, but The Telegraph described familiar themes among those surveyed.

Some said that they felt time either slowed down or sped up, the paper reported, while one in five described an "unusual sense of peacefulness". A small proportion felt "separated from their bodies" or having "heightened senses".

The Telegraph added:

Some recalled seeing a bright light; a golden flash or the sun shining. Others recounted feelings of fear or drowning or being dragged through deep water.

Estimates have suggested that millions of people have had vivid experiences in relation to death but the scientific evidence has been ambiguous at best.Many people have assumed that these were hallucinations or illusions but they do seem to correspond to actual events.And a higher proportion of people may have vivid death experiences, but do not recall them due to the effects of brain injury or sedative drugs on memory circuits. These experiences warrant further investigation.

The study was published in the journal Resuscitation.

You can view it here.

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