Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Near death?

No--I'm not asking about how your semester is going . . .

I suspect that I'm not the only one who gets questions from my students related to things that have been seldom if ever studied by reliable scientists . . . but are accepted (or rejected) as "facts" nonetheless.

Take the "near death experience" frequently reported by individuals and often relayed by the popular press . . . as well as portrayed in popular fiction.

Physiologically speaking, what may be behind this phenomenon?

Last month researchers University of Southampton in the UK announced that they are going to launch the biggest investigation into the "near-death" phenomenon so far. The university's Hu­man Con­scious­ness Proj­ect is calling their new initiative AWARE (A­WAre­ness dur­ing RE­sus­cita­t­ion. It is to involve a large team of researchers from all over the world.

Dr. Sam Parnia, leader of this effort, states, "Contrary to popular perception, death is not a specific moment. It is a process that begins when the heart stops beating, the lungs stop working and the brain ceases functioning – a medical condition termed cardiac arrest, which from a biological viewpoint is synonymous with clinical death."

Dr. Parnia wants to explore what brain processes may still be intact during those moments after the heart stops beating. Wow, what an intriguing question.

I don't think I'll be volunteering as a subject for this one, however!

Want to know more?

World's Largest Study of Near-Death Experiences to Start
World Science published online September 11, 2008
Summary article

Press Release
University of Southampton published online September 10, 2008

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