A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has presented preliminary findings suggesting there can be a surge of brain activity linked to consciousness during the dying process.
The new study aimed to investigate the brain activity of patients during the dying process, particularly focusing on whether there are any neural correlates of consciousness. Near-death experiences (NDEs) have been reported by some cardiac arrest survivors and are described as highly vivid and real-like experiences. These experiences challenge our understanding of brain function during cardiac arrest when consciousness is believed to be absent.
Previous research has shown that high-frequency brain oscillations, specifically gamma activities, are associated with consciousness. In animal studies, sudden termination of cardiac function or acute asphyxia has been found to stimulate gamma activities. However, no studies have examined the neural correlates of dying humans that could explain the subjective experiences reported in NDEs.
“My lab has been studying the dying brain since 2013 and was the first to discover the surge of gamma oscillations in the dying process, in rats (Borjigin et al., 2013; Li et al., 2015), as I was shocked to realize that the science/medicine knows little about the brain during the dying process,” said study author Jimo Borjigin, an associate professor in the department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology with a joint appointment in Neurology at University of Michigan Medical School. [Continue reading…]