People who are revived after near-death experiences could still have memories and understand what’s going on around them for up to an hour after their hearts stopped, a study suggests.
The first study of its kind, which followed survivors of cardiac arrest, found that nearly 40 percent of people undergoing CPR had flashbacks, dream experiences or some perception of what was happening around them.
Researchers have long worked to understand what happens after death. This study provides insight into the poorly understood world of near-death experiences.
These processes can open up access to “new dimensions of reality,” the researchers wrote, and “open the door to a systematic exploration of what happens when a person dies.”
Furthermore, the findings could inspire new treatments to restart the heart and prevent brain injury.
Dr. Sam Parnia, lead author of the study and a critical care physician at NYU Langone in New York City, said: “Although doctors have long thought that the brain suffers permanent damage about 10 minutes after the heart stops supplying oxygen, our work found that the brain can show signs of electrical recovery for a long time after ongoing CPR.
“This is the first large study to show that these memories and brain wave changes may be signs of universal and shared elements of so-called near-death experiences.”
The first study of its kind published in the journal Resuscitation found that almost 40 percent of people undergoing CPR had memories, dream experiences or some perception of what was happening around them.
The study, published Thursday in the journal Resuscitationexamined 567 patients at 25 hospitals in the US and the UK who were being resuscitated after suffering cardiac arrests between May 2017 and March 2020. However, only less than 10 per cent survived.
Of those 53 survivors, the researchers interviewed 28 of them.
The researchers looked at brain wave activity and tested whether the participants could recall certain images and sounds. During resuscitation, they put headphones on the patients and tapped three words (apple, pear, and banana) while using a tablet to display 10 images.
Only one of the 28 participants correctly recalled the sequence of words and none could recall the images.
Eleven survivors reported having memories or perceptions that suggested they were at least somewhat conscious while reliving them. They had at least some mental function based on the brain activity and oxygen levels measured.
Some patients recalled dream experiences, such as being chased by the police or caught in the rain.
One patient recalled: ‘I (went to a house where I shouldn’t have been). (The police) caught me… (I was thinking how to explain to him what he was doing in the house). Then, I walked into a puddle… When I got out of the puddle, I wasn’t wet, and I kind of melted into the pavement… There was a fisherman singing a sea song above me, and it was raining. ”
Others recalled their medical treatment, such as pain, pressure, or hearing.
“I remember when I came back and they were putting those two electrodes on my chest, and I remember the shock,” said one participant.
Another said: “I could feel someone doing something to my chest.” I couldn’t feel actual compressions, but I could feel someone rubbing pretty hard. “It was quite painful.”
Several participants saw certain loved ones. “I remember seeing my dad,” one said.
Another recalled: “I thought I heard my grandmother (who passed away) say ‘you have to go back’.”
And others even saw more stereotypical images, like bright white lights.
‘I remember a being of light… standing near me. “It loomed over me like a great tower of strength, but it radiated only warmth and love… I caught glimpses of my life and felt pride, love, joy and sadness all washing over me,” said one patient.
“Each image was mine, but from the point of view of a being standing with me or looking… I was shown the consequences of my life, thousands of people I had interacted with and felt the way they felt about me, saw their lives and how it had impacted them.’
“Then I saw the consequences of my life and the influence of my actions.”
The researchers wrote that the findings “may also guide the design of new ways to restart the heart or prevent brain injuries and have implications for transplants.”
The team plans to conduct more studies on near-death experiences and the long-term effects of being revived after cardiac arrest.