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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Near-death research demonstrates a surge of consciousness

The human consciousness may last beyond the dying body.

(CN) — Death, and the process of dying, is a shared macabre obsession that reaches across all cultures and classes. The slowing beeps on a monitor are a Hollywood commonplace, and even Netflix crafted a docu-series called "Surviving Death" that covers everything from near-death experiences to fake paranormal interactions.

Now, new research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2022 in Chicago Sunday of near-death experiences sheds light on what humans go through as we face our final moments. 

Scientists, primarily out of the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, studied 567 men and women who were hospitalized when they received CPR after a cardiac arrest event. The study involved monitoring brain activity and survivor interviews about their experiences. Only one in five people survive CPR after suffering from cardiac arrest. 

One of the most significant findings is spikes in brain activity even an hour into CPR. These bursts, comprised of alpha, beta, theta, gamma and delta brain waves, also occur naturally when humans are conscious. Some patterns are reminiscent of high-brain functions such as memory retrieval and thinking. 

“Our results offer evidence that while on the brink of death and in a coma, people undergo a unique inner conscious experience, including awareness without distress,” said lead author Sam Parnia in a press release. 

In their reports, survivors talked of lucid events, including out-of-body experiences, a lack of distress and pain, and an evaluation of their lives. These events were proven to be separate from any dream or hallucination and showed signs of conscious perception. 

“These lucid experiences cannot be considered a trick of a disordered or dying brain, but rather a unique human experience that emerges on the brink of death,” Parnia noted.

The researchers feel that the combination of brain activity and survivor stories suggests that the human consciousness goes beyond the time of death — unlike all other bodily functions. While the stories couldn’t necessarily be empirically proven, they weren’t found to be false. Parnia and his team are hoping for continued research to find biomarkers for consciousness and other death experiences. 

Dubbed AWARE II, this study included 126 survivor testimonies and is one of the first large-scale studies of near-death experiences. Parnia is known for his work on death, consciousness and cardiac arrest, with two books, titled "What Happens When We Die" and "Erasing Death." 

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