What happens when you die? Over the years, there have been many stories of people who, after having a heart attack or near drowning, report seeing bright lights or hearing the voices of recently deceased loved ones.
I’ve even met people who claim that during life-saving surgeries, they began to separate from their bodies, hover above them, and look down at themselves as they lay on the operating table.
The fact that many people around the world report remarkably similar experiences suggests that something is really going on – a popular explanation is that people who have returned from the brink of death have glimpsed the afterlife, the place where our consciousness goes when we die.
Personally, I don’t believe in an afterlife, but I’ve always been curious about these near-death reports.
In fact, a few years ago I was working on a TV documentary where we planned to connect a volunteer who was about to die and see what was happening in her brain when she died.
What happens when you die? Over the years, there have been many stories of people who, after having a heart attack or near drowning, report seeing bright lights or hearing the voices of recently deceased loved ones
The documentary was never made because our volunteer, initially enthusiastic, decided at the last minute not to be filmed.
So I was touched to see the results of a recent project where researchers managed to do something similar.
The study was conducted by neurologists at the Center for Consciousness Science at the University of Michigan and published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers approached this differently than we did; they searched hospital records for patients who had died in the neurointensive care unit at the University of Michigan while their brains were being monitored using an electroencephalogram (EEG).
The researchers managed to find the medical records of four patients who had suffered massive heart attacks and arrived at the hospital comatose and unresponsive; they were fitted with EEGs as part of tests to see if there was any chance of recovery.
Once it was decided that the patients were beyond medical attention, doctors (with the families’ consent) turned off the ventilators that kept them alive. What was amazing was that seconds after the ventilators were turned off, EEG recordings from two of the patients showed an increase in gamma wave activity. This was a surprise because gamma waves are a form of rapid brain activity and are normally associated with being aware and alert.
This peak lasted several minutes and was sometimes intense – ‘crazy high’, according to one of the researchers. There was no change in the brains of the other two patients who had died.
Even more surprising is that this burst of gamma wave activity occurred in parts of the brain related to dreams and visual hallucinations. One suggestion is that a sudden drop in oxygen supply to the patient’s brain, which occurred when the ventilators were turned off, shut down some of the brain’s natural “braking” systems. This, in turn, enabled the activation of dormant visions and long-lost memories, at least for a short while.
This would certainly fit with the experiences of people who have nearly drowned who often say things like ‘my whole life flashed before my eyes’.
This research is part of a wider project to try to understand the mystery of consciousness and how to detect it using brain monitors. For example, it would be useful if patients undergo surgery to know whether they are completely unconscious or not. There are known cases where patients have regained consciousness during an operation but have not been able to tell anyone they are awake because they have also been given a muscle relaxant, which has left them unable to speak or wave their arms.
At present, there is no reliable way to tell whether a patient on the operating table is aware of their surroundings. That’s why this kind of research is done on what happens in the brain as it slides from consciousness to unconsciousness and back again. is so important.
It also explains something that surprised me when my own father died nearly 20 years ago. Towards the end, although he was rarely aware of his surroundings, he sang random songs from his childhood with great enthusiasm.
At the time it seemed strange. I now realize it may have been because gamma waves were released in his fading brain, causing last-minute energy surges and, I like to think, unleashing happy memories of a life well lived.
It’s time we started eating insects
I once tried eating grasshoppers – rolled in flour, coriander, garlic and chilli powder, and deep fried, they were nice and crispy, kind of like prawns.
Insects are popular foods in some countries, such as Malaysia, and it’s a shame we shun them in the UK, as they are not only more sustainable than meat, but also contain twice as much protein as beef per kilo; double the iron in spinach; twice as much calcium as cow’s milk and more vitamin B12 than salmon.
Plus, eating chitin — the stuff insects use to make their hard outer shells — can be good for your gut microbes.
I once tried eating grasshoppers – rolled in flour, coriander, garlic and chilli powder, and deep fried, they were nice and crispy, kind of like prawns
In 2018, researchers at Colorado State University in the US added ground chitin to muffins and milkshakes and showed that consuming just 25g per day for eight weeks was enough to reduce gut inflammation by increasing levels of bifidobacteria, “good” bacteria. that produce anti-inflammatories. Chemicals.
The researchers are now planning another study, using chitin to treat irritable bowel syndrome – cricket chitin is compressed into patties and covered in chocolate. It sounds pretty good.
Are you a hoarder? It could be a sign that you have ADHD
One of the things my wife, Clare, and I argue about is the amount of old clothes, medical journals, broken furniture, and other junk that fills our attic, garage, and closets. When I say, “Let’s get a dumpster or take it to the thrift store,” Clare becomes defensive and mutters something like, “Not now.”
Clare is something of a hoarder, although not as much as the people you may have seen on TV.
Hoarding disorder is a mental health problem that affects about 2 percent of the population.
According to a recent article in the British Journal of General Practice, it is often overlooked and people who have it may not even realize it. Signs to look out for include having so much clutter that it negatively impacts life or relationships.
It’s not clear what causes hoarding disorder, but new research has linked it to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), in which people find it difficult to stay focused on a task.
Hoarding disorder is a mental health problem that affects about 2 percent of the population
In a recent study, researchers at Anglia Ruskin University tested people attending an ADHD clinic and found that 19 percent definitely had a hoarding disorder, while the remaining 81 percent showed hoarding tendencies, though not bad enough to significantly affect their lives.
Clare, who was never officially diagnosed but almost certainly has ADHD, says she holds onto things because she thinks “I’m going to need this one day.” She has big plans (not atypical for people with ADHD) to fix our mess, although I suspect it will never happen.
For people with hoarding disorder, cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the few things that has been shown to help.
If your problem is just being surrounded by too much clutter, here are a few tips:
Start small: don’t aim to clear the entire house in one weekend – start with one room or even just a closet.
Sort by category: For example, if you want to clean out your closet, unpack all your clothes and sort them into shirts, pants, jackets, pants, etc. Then apply the one-year rule: if you own (or use) an item for at least a years and you have no specific plans to use it anytime soon, put it aside for the dumpster or a thrift store.
Ask a friend to help: This will reduce the risk of tense confrontations when cleaning out closets with your partner. I speak from personal experience.