Survivors of near-death experiences often evoke the image of rising out of their bodies or seeing their life and relationships play out like a movie.
These might not be merely dreams and hallucinations. Now, one of the first large studies of the phenomenon shows their recollections and brain wave changes may be universal elements of these close encounters of the morbid kind.
The New York University-led study included cardiac arrest patients from 25 hospitals in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Despite immediate CPR, fewer than 10% of the 567 hospitalized patients studied recovered sufficiently to be discharged. Of the 28 who survived and were interviewed, four in 10 recalled some consciousness during CPR.
And in a subset of patients who received an EEG [E-E-G], which monitors brain activity using electrodes, nearly 40% had brain activity that returned to normal, or nearly normal, up to an hour after their hearts stopped.
Due to the low survival rates, the researchers surveyed 126 people outside the hospital who were recently revived from cardiac arrest.
Some recalled a benevolent being or light; a small number recalled faceless figures with ill intent. Others recalled electric paddles being used on their chest. Some said they floated above their corporeal selves, watching efforts to save their life unfold.
The study’s authors hypothesize the “flatlined” brain removes our natural inhibitory systems in a way that opens access to new realities, such as sharp recall of early childhood memories.
The team notes research hasn’t proved or disproved the reality or meaning of patients’ near-death experiences. But they plan to keep trying until, you might say, they see the light.