According to a study, researchers have noticed an increase in energetic activity in dying patients’ brains, proving our brains can go on to function even after our hearts stop.
The findings refute the conventional belief that brains lose functionality because of oxygen deprivation during cardiac arrest, and they might eventually provide some new insight into the strange phenomena related to near-death experiences.
Since she first noticed spikes in activity in the dying rats’ brains 10 years prior, Jimo Borjigin, an associate professor of neurology, has been intrigued by such issues.
Gamma waves, which are the brain’s fastest oscillations and precursors to conscious perception, to lucid dreams, and to hallucinations, making up the surges.
Recently, similar gamma activity has been found in the brains of patients who passed away in the hospital while being monitored by EEG sensors.
Four patients were taken off life support with consent from their families, and the researchers looked at the EEG readings.
That being said, what the researchers noticed was that two of the patients had complex gamma activity during cardiac arrest in an area of the brain referred to as a “hot zone” that is essential for conscious thought.
As per new research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the observations “demonstrate the surge of gamma power and connectivity seen in animal models of cardiac arrest can be noticed in some select patients during the process of dying.”
The results may also aid in explaining near-death experiences, which the research described as “a biological paradox which challenges our fundamental understanding of the dying brain, which is generally believed to be non-functioning” while dying.
The senior author of the study, Borjigin, shared via Motherboard that “The dying brain was thought to be inactive; our study showed otherwise. The marked and organized gamma activities’ discovery in the dying brain suggests NDE is the product of the dying brain, which is then activated at death. As far as I’m concerned, our study may be as good as it’ll ever get for finding neural signatures of near death consciousness. The only thing better is to have the patients survive to tell the tale correlating with the detected neural signatures.”
Although it is impossible to know what the patients experienced as a result of the increased brain activity, Borjigin said that the data suggests a subjective experience that may have involved visual and auditory dimensions.
As a result, the study may have offered an empirical complement to accounts of near death experiences, which frequently include startlingly similar phenomena, like the presence of light, a sense of levitation, or even a highlight reel of one’s memories.
The study is part of a recent research wave that challenges our conventional conception of death.
Recent research tracked the vital signs of over 600 people as they passed away and discovered cardiac activity even minutes after a patient’s heart had stopped beating.
It will take more investigation to prove a connection between gamma activity in the brain and death, in part because the study’s small sample size makes it challenging to draw generalizations.
Furthermore, it is still unknown why only 2 of the 4 patients died with gamma activity.
Although neither patient had a seizure in the hour before their deaths, both had a history of seizures, which may explain the findings.
Borjigin said that “The gamma activation in the dying patients was detected in 2 patients only; this needs to be confirmed in more patients. The activation patterns varied even among them; does this mean the two had somewhat different experiences internally during their final moments? What EEG features correlate with ‘seeing light’ or ‘seeing relatives,’ ‘out of body sensation’ or ‘life review? How are the potential sensory percepts encoded back in the brain for later recall if they actually survived? These are unsolved questions in need of other studies and in need of funding to do so.”
More observations of dying brains will be collected by Borjigin and her colleagues in an effort to unravel these mysteries and possibly reveal the deeper significance of these gamma surges.
Borjigin concluded that “Our data reveals the dying brain is far from hypoactive. Then, why would a dying brain get activated? What is the function of the brain’s activation at near death? Producing an internal state of consciousness can’t be its sole function when survival is truly at stake. Much of my upcoming research will focus on the brain’s role in cardiac arrest, including covert consciousness.”