Scientists discover what happens seconds after you die – activity in the brain and heart INCREASE
The “light at the end of the tunnel” that a person experiences just before death can be caused by a surge of energy similar to that of an attack when you die.
Researchers at the University of Michigan found that just before death, people experience a jump in gamma wave activity in a part of the brain responsible for consciousness, dreams and hallucinations.
They believe these hallucinations are responsible for reports of people seeing a bright light, hearing voices, singing, or even visions of loved ones when they are near death.
The research is still in its early stages — with just four patients in this study — but scientists hope it paves the way for a better understanding of how the brain responds to death.
Using a tool that measures brain waves, researchers found that some people experience a burst of gamma waves just before death. This surge of activity may be responsible for the hallucinations a person experiences before death, such as the “light at the end of the tunnel”
Researchers, who published their findings Monday in PNASstudied four patients who died after cardiac arrest while being monitored for an electroencephalogram (EEG).
An EEG is a test that measures electrical activity in the brain using electrodes attached to the scalp.
These devices detect and record small electrical signals from the brain. Four patients enrolled in the study were comatose and unresponsive.
They were eventually determined not to receive any further medical attention and, with the consent of their families, were removed from life support.
When the ventilator that kept them alive was removed, two of the patients showed an increase in heart rate along with a surge of gamma wave activity.
Gamma wave activity is considered the fastest in the brain and is associated with consciousness.
High gamma levels are usually associated with intense thoughts and heightened focus.
Previous research has found Schizophrenia patients will often experience bursts of high gamma waves in their brains.
High levels of gamma waves are also recorded when a person has a seizure.
Both study participants who experienced high gamma activity before death had had epileptic seizures earlier in life, but not in the hour before death.
It is also associated with psychosis and some harmful brain activity, such as delusions and hallucinations.
The other two patients did not show the same increase in heart rate, nor did they have increased brain activity.
The study follows on from an animal study conducted nearly a decade earlier.
Similar features of gamma activation were recorded in the dying brains of both animals and humans upon oxygen loss following cardiac arrest.
Since the sample size was small, the team cautions against making blanket statements about the implications of the findings.
They also note that it is impossible to know what the patients went through since they did not survive.
Co-author Dr. George Mashour, the founder and director of the Michigan Center for Consciousness Science, said: ‘How vivid experiences can emerge from a dysfunctional brain during the dying process is a neuroscientific paradox.
‘Dr. Borjigin has led an important study that helps shed light on the underlying neurophysiological mechanisms.’
Lead author Professor Jimo Borjigin, from the University of Michigan, said: ‘We are unable to make correlations between the perceived neural features of consciousness and a corresponding experience in the same patients in this study.
“However, the observed findings are absolutely exciting and provide a new framework for our understanding of hidden consciousness in dying people.”
Larger studies could provide much-needed data to determine whether or not these bursts in gamma activity are evidence of hidden consciousness, even near death.