Just as religions have been telling us for millennia, something of us survives death. And now science is beginning to agree.
After studying all the scientific evidence, a multidisciplinary team of 19 academics—most of whom are working in the frontline caring for people who ‘die’ and get resuscitated—has recently published a consensus statement that the millions of people around the world who have had near-death experiences (NDEs) consistently recall such a similar set of experiences that they can’t be put down to hallucinations or illusions.1
The team, which includes anesthesiologists, critical care doctors, emergency care specialists and neuroscientists from New York University, Harvard, the University of California, and King’s College London, agrees that science shows a brain doesn’t die when the heart stops beating.
New discoveries reveal that our brain cells are far more resilient than scientists have previously believed and take many hours—possibly even days—to die after a person has been officially pronounced dead.
Modern resuscitation techniques have enabled doctors to restore life to millions well after their hearts have stopped beating—which has also enabled scientists to study the common experiences of these patients during the time they were supposedly dead.
What the scientific team now acknowledges in this landmark paper is that near-death survivors describe “a unique set of recollections in relation to death that appear universal” and that follow a predictable narrative arc, which is essentially a life review.
This activity was evident in a case study in which an EEG continued to record brain waves in a patient who was, to all purposes, dead, and showed evidence of the kind of activity associated with a brain sifting through memories.2
The scientific team acknowledged that consciousness does not cease during these episodes, and that NDE patients who ‘come back’ are irrevocably changed, displaying long-term psychological transformation.
There’s also evidence, they say, that the patients display gamma brain wave activity during the time they are supposedly dead. The gamma band, the fastest of brain-wave frequencies, is employed by the brain when it is working its hardest, particularly in the midst of great flashes of insight, heightened awareness and enhanced lucidity.
Studies of yogis have shown that during deep meditation, their brains produce bursts of high-frequency beta or gamma waves, which often are associated with moments of ecstasy or intense concentration.
Team leader Sam Parnia of New York University, author of The Lazarus Effect (Rider, 2014), believes modern resuscitation techniques show that “death is not an absolute state” but “a process that could potentially be reversed in some people even after it has started.” He claims that patients suffering heart attacks can be revived up to 24 hours after their hearts stop beating with up-to-date equipment and the right procedures.
But he goes further. Dr Parnia says that evidence like this suggests that consciousness may be mediated by the brain but isn’t housed exclusively inside it.
These conclusions are similar to those long espoused by frontier scientists like Russian physicist Dr Konstantin Korotkov, who developed the gas discharge visualization (GDV) device, with state-of-the-art optics, digitized television matrices and a powerful computer, to study light emitting from the human body.
In the late 1990s, Korotkov and a team of assistants took readings from dozens of men and women who had recently died and found that for many hours there was no principal difference between the gas discharge glow of live people and the cadavers.
Furthermore, the change in light over time followed distinctly different patterns, which seemed to mirror the nature of their deaths; when people died gently, so did their light, but when they died more violently, their light had more abrupt transitions.
Those who died a natural death had larger oscillations during the first 55 hours after death, which afterward receded to gentler waves.
Although materialists would argue that the light was simply the residual physiological activity of muscle tissues in the process of decomposition, the forensic medical literature made it clear that Korotkov’s data did not resemble in any way the electrophysiological characteristics of a newly dead body.
The only conclusion was that this light carried on after life had ended, evidence of some sort of transition.
Ann N Y Acad Sci, 2022 Feb 18. doi: 10.1111/nyas.14740
Front Aging Neurosci, 2022; 14: 813531