Approaching the threshold of death, numerous individuals have observed incredible phenomena, probing the mysterious world of near-death experiences (NDEs).
In 1991, a Gallup poll unveiled that 5 percent of adult Americans had encountered such experiences.
Jumping to 2019, research that included over 1,000 participants from 35 varied countries determined that 10 percent of these people had also undergone NDEs.
The complex relationship between the dying brain and consciousness continues to engage and fascinate scientists around the globe, leading them to explore the secrets that exist beyond the boundary of life. NDEs might encompass out-of-body sensations, meetings with departed relatives, divine or spiritual beings, traversing through tunnels or passages, retrospection of life, and feelings of happiness and serenity. These experiences are exceptionally vivid, described as “more real than real” by Jimo Borjigin, a Ph.D. holder in neurology and the leader of a research team at the University of Michigan. They recently shared a study on NDEs in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, illuminating the fascinating connection between the dying brain and consciousness.
The scientists examined the electroencephalograms (EEG) of four patients who were dying of cardiac arrest and were being monitored by EEG. After ceasing ventilator assistance, two patients showed an increased heart rate, followed by a significant boost in gamma wave activity.
Gamma waves or oscillations are thought to participate in various cognitive functions and are tied to high-level brain activities, such as focus, perception, recollection, and awareness. They might also contribute to synchronizing neural activity and amalgamating information across diverse brain regions.
Interestingly, this spike in gamma wave activity was detected in the brain’s “hot zone” for consciousness correlates, located at the meeting point of the back area’s parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes. This region connects with experiences like dreaming, visual hallucinations in epilepsy, and changed states of consciousness.
Even though two patients had earlier endured seizures, there were no signs of seizure activity in the hour before their deaths. On the other hand, the other two patients did not display a similar rise in heart rate or increased brain activity upon life support withdrawal.
A separate study in Frontiers in Neuroscience has associated NDEs with increased synchronization of neuronal activity in the high-frequency range of 13–100 Hz, impacting cognitive functions like perception, attention, and memory.
Borjigin proposed that dying could activate specific human brain areas, allowing a glimpse of consciousness even after heart activity stops. Recent research has supplied initial evidence supporting this theory.
Investigating consciousness and the human mind’s state at death’s doorstep is complex. Ongoing inquiry and study in this domain are vital for deciphering the enigmas of death and providing insight into the character of human consciousness.