A brain wave surge in 2 people, who died after their life support was turned off, may help explain the phenomenon of near-death experiences. The sensation of moving through a tunnel into a bright light, reliving memories of the past, and hearing or seeing deceased relatives has been reported by people in many cultures who have had a brush with death.
Skeptics, however, say these experiences could be caused by people hallucinating while recovering in the hospital.
What did a team of scientists find?
The study was led by JimoBorjigin, a researcher of the University of Michigan Medical School, and is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Some people who are seriously ill in intensive care units (ICUs) have electrodes attached to their heads to monitor their brain waves in a technique called electroencephalography, or EEG. These brain waves can be seen on an EEG when large numbers of brain cells fire together in synchronized cycles; they can occur at different frequencies.
Out of the 4 people in the study, 2 showed gamma brain wave surges when their life support was withdrawn. This surge of brain waves lasted a few minutes and was very intense at times, saysBorjigin: “It was a crazy high”.
It is impossible to know if these people had visions as they died. “Had they survived, those 2 patients might have had a story to tell”, says the study author. Unlike the other pair of individuals who did not show gamma brain waves, the 2 ones who did had brains that were still functioning enough to increase their heart rate as their blood oxygen levels fell. This suggests that a functioning autonomic nervous system may be necessary for the gamma brain wave surge to occur. Even more; Said activity was detected in the so-called hot zone, an area in the back of the brain linked to conscious brain activity that has been correlated with dreams, visual hallucinations in epilepsy, or altered states of consciousness.
The findings provide further supporting evidence for consciousness in some people who are otherwise thought to be unconscious at the end of their life. However, it is a very small sample to release definitive results in this regard.