“My entire life flashed before my eyes” is a phrase we frequently hear concerning near-death experiences – and there simply might be some truth to it. Scientists recorded the activity of a dying human brain for the first time ever, revealing brain wave patterns associated with processes like dreaming and memory recall.
The study wasn’t specially designed to measure the brain’s activity across the time of death – it became only a matter of happenstance. The researchers had been continuously monitoring the brain waves of an 87-year-old epilepsy patient the use of EEG, to observe for seizures. However, at some point of the treatment the patient suddenly had a heart attack and died.
As such, the researchers managed to record 15 minutes of brain activity across the time of death. They focused in at the 30 seconds either side of while the heart stopped beating and detected increased activity in varieties of brain waves referred to as gamma oscillations. These are concerned in processes including dreaming, meditation and memory retrieval, giving a glimpse into what a person can be experiencing at some stage in their very last moments.
“Through generating oscillations concerned in memory retrieval, the brain can be playing a final recall of important life events simply before we die, just like those reported in near-death experiences,” stated Dr. Ajmal Zemmar, lead author of the study. “These findings challenge our understanding of when precisely life ends and generate important subsequent questions, which include those associated with the timing of organ donation.”
The team says that the observations suggest the brain is able to coordinate activity even after blood stops flowing via it. Similar changes in gamma waves across the time of death had previously detected in rats, however this marks the first time that such activity had been detected in humans.
Of course, the consequences need to be all for some caution, the team stressed. The data comes from only a single case study, or even that become in a patient whose brain have been injured and was undergoing uncommon activity associated with epilepsy. The researchers wish to investigate in addition in different cases.
“Something we may also learn from this research is: even though our loved ones have their eyes closed and are prepared to go away us to rest, their brains can be replaying a number of the nicest moments they experienced of their lives,” stated Zemmar.
The research was published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.