Humans fear the unknown and death is the biggest mystery there is.
Before the invention of technologies to resuscitate us, cardiac arrest (when heart activity stops completely) was an irreversible death sentence. But new medical technologies like CPR have allowed us to revive some people who had previously been considered clinically dead.
Research from Dr. Sam Parnia at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York suggests that even after our hearts stop beating, we might be aware that we’re “dead” because our brain continues to function for anywhere between 2-20 seconds.
His research is based on a study of 2000 people in the U.S. and Europe who were revived after a cardiac arrest.
While death seems like a pretty straightforward state, definitions have actually changed over time. Before we had ways of measuring various body functions, the cessation of breathing could be considered death.
Now that we know hearts can be re-started, we tend to use brain death as the standard, even though there are recorded cases of people being revived after their brains have “flatlined.”
In order to test the theory that the brain can still process information after cardiac arrest, scientists have gathered testimonials from people who were revived after their hearts stopped in order to see if they had any memories from those moments.
The patients reported everything from “seeing” medical staff working on their bodies to hearing their doctors pronounce them deceased. Dr. Parnia reported that:
“They’ll describe watching doctors and nurses working; they’ll describe having awareness of full conversations, of visual things that were going on, that would otherwise not be known to them.”
These accounts were confirmed by doctors and nurses in the room with the patient.
These kinds of experiences have been reported in about 10% of people who have been revived after a cardiac arrest.
Some revived patients also reported seeing or experiencing supernatural beings that radiated love and warmth after their hearts stopped. Parnia said that what these patients saw tended to line up with their religious views – so people see whatever god-like entity they believed in.
You might imagine that experiencing your own death and being given another chance at life would change your perspective on the world. And it’s true – the researchers also found that these traumatic experiences changed people’s behavior for the better.
People who have been through a near-death experience often make positive changes in their lives after the event – they become more compassionate and willing to help others.
These experiences can also lead to a desire to make radical changes in one’s life including career shifts and divorce.
There’s plenty more research to be done before we have any real answers to the mysteries of human consciousness. But studies like this give us fascinating insight into how the human brain operates and experiences death (or near-death) and how survivors cope with their new lease on life.
For those interested in learning more, there are dozens of books published by both scientists and survivors of near-death experiences. There’s even an academic journal titled Journal of Near-Death Studies.
It’s safe to say we’ll learn more about this fascinating field with each passing year.
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Source: Daily Mail