In a large scale of more than 2,000 people, British scientists have confirmed that thoughts do carry on after the heart stops.
The shock findings have also given insight into what happens when people experience an out of body experience after being pronounced dead and then coming back to life.
Prior to the study, the scientists believed that the brain stopped all activity after 30 seconds after the heart stopped pumping blood around the body. At this point, it was thought that awareness stopped, too.
The study from the University of Southhampton was published in the journal Resuscitation and demonstrated that people experience awareness for up to 3 minutes after they have been pronounced dead.
Parnia said this about the study: “Contrary to perception, death is not a specific moment but a potentially reversible process that occurs after any severe illness or accident causes the heart, lungs and brain to cease functioning.
“If attempts are made to reverse this process, it is referred to as ‘cardiac arrest’; however, if these attempts do not succeed it is called ‘death’.”
Results of the world’s largest “near death experiences” study
Lead researcher Dr. Sam Parnia interviewed 2,060 patients from Austria, the US and the UK who had previously suffered cardiac arrest. Almost 40 percent said they continued to experience awareness after being pronounced clinically dead.
The study concluded the following:
- The themes relating to the experience of death appear far broader than what has been understood so far, or what has been described as so called near-death experiences.
- In some cases of cardiac arrest, memories of visual awareness compatible with so called out-of-body experiences may correspond with actual events.
- A higher proportion of people may have vivid death experiences, but do not recall them due to the effects of brain injury or sedative drugs on memory circuits.
- Widely used yet scientifically imprecise terms such as near-death and out-of-body experiences may not be sufficient to describe the actual experience of death. Future studies should focus on cardiac arrest, which is biologically synonymous with death, rather than ill-defined medical states sometimes referred to as ‘near-death’.
- The recalled experience surrounding death merits a genuine investigation without prejudice.
Jerry Nolan, Editor-in-Chief at Reuscitation Journal, who did not participate in the study but is considered an authority on the subject, said of the research, “Dr. Parnia and his colleagues are to be congratulated on the completion of a fascinating study that will open the door to more extensive research into what happens when we die.”
A significant finding from the study
Parnia said one of the most significant findings from the research was that of a 57-year old man who had an out of body experience and was able to confirm with eerie accuracy what was going on around him after he had “died” temporarily.
Parnia said the following:
“This is significant, since it has often been assumed that experiences in relation to death are likely hallucinations or illusions occurring either before the heart stops or after the heart has been successfully restarted, but not an experience corresponding with ‘real’ events when the heart isn’t beating.
“In this case, consciousness and awareness appeared to occur during a three-minute period when there was no heartbeat.
“This is paradoxical, since the brain typically ceases functioning within 20-30 seconds of the heart stopping and doesn’t resume again until the heart has been restarted.
“Furthermore, the detailed recollections of visual awareness in this case were consistent with verified events.”