The Quick Report

New Scientific Study Detailed Hundreds of Near-Death Experiences with Fascinating Results

There are remarkable similarities among people who have near-death experiences. Doctors and psychologists are finally beginning to take these episodes seriously. Find out what new research has discovered.

What are NDEs, OBEs, and REDs?

What happens when people experience death? Before we answer that question, we first need to become familiar with a few terms and their definitions.

What defines death?

When medical professionals speak of death, it is usually referred to as either clinical death or biological death.

Clinical death is judged by medical observation and refers to a cessation of vital functions. It is typically identified as the cessation of heartbeat and respiration.

Biological death is when the brain is damaged. The cells in the brain, heart, and other organs die from a lack of oxygen. When the heart stops pumping blood, and without CPR, biological death begins to set in at around 4-6 minutes. The damage that occurs during biological death is irreversible. This is sometimes referred to in layman’s terms as “brain death.”

What is a near-death experience?

A near-death experience (NDE) is defined as a state that can occur when the brain undergoes decreased oxidization. This can occur during reversible clinical death or amid impending death. Most NDEs occur as the result of a severe injury affecting the brain or body. They can also be the result of a reaction to general anesthesia or drugs such as LSD, ketamine, or cannabinoids.

Roughly 9 million people in the US have reported an NDE, according to a 2011 study in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

Although NDEs vary from person to person, several common features may occur, including:

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  • Awareness of being dead
  • Positive emotions
  • Moving toward a bright light, feeling the light is welcoming
  • Passing through a tunnel, sometimes toward light
  • Communication with light
  • Observation of colors
  • Observation of a celestial landscape
  • Meeting with deceased persons
  • Meeting or communicating with a deity
  • Feeling very comfortable and free of pain
  • The mind functioning more clearly and more rapidly than usual
  • Other visual phenomena
  • Out-of-body experiences (OBEs), such as: Detaching from one’s body and floating above it; Flying off into space

What is an out-of-body experience?

An out-of-body experience (OBE) is defined as a hallucinatory visual experience in which a person seems to be awake and sees their body and the world from outside their physical body. In other words, a person’s consciousness seems to leave their body and then observe the rest of the world and their own body from the outside.

In addition to being associated with near-death experiences, OBEs have been reportedly associated with many psychiatric disorders, brain dysfunctions, pharmacological agents, altered physiological states, meditation, and labor and birth.

There are three forms that OBEs typically take:

  • Floating above the scene
  • Remaining close to the scene
  • Full separation of a body part from the main body

What is a recalled experience of death?

A recalled experience of death (RED) is a term researchers developed for people who had an NDE and were able to recall memories and perceptions of events that suggest the persistence of consciousness at a time when they were clinically dead.

New studies reveal insight into what people see when they die

A multinational and multi-center study, AWARE-II, was undertaken in the US and the UK. Researchers examined 567 cardiac arrest patients at 25 different hospitals.

The study was the first of its kind to examine consciousness and its underlying electrocortical biomarkers during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

The cardiac arrest survivors underwent interviews to examine their recall of their awareness and cognitive experiences. Of the 567 patients studied, only 53 survived (9.3%). Roughly half of those (52.8%) completed interviews. Among those, 11 (39.3%) reported memories and perceptions that suggested the persistence of consciousness. Six survivors had a transcendent experience of recalling death.

The researchers said that during cardiac arrest, the patients had no detectable signs of consciousness. However, despite the lack of a heartbeat, these patients had brain signatures associated with consciousness. Delta, theta, alpha, and beta rhythms were present in patients who experienced NDEs.

NDE experiences match typical claims

The study confirmed similar experiences that had been claimed by millions of NDE survivors across the globe for years:

“I remember entering a tunnel,” one survivor said, according to Discover Magazine. “The first feeling was a feeling of intense peace. It was so calm and serene with an incredible amount of tranquility. All of my […] worries, thoughts, fears, and opinions were gone.”

“I had no fear about where I was going and what to expect when I arrived there,” the survivor added. “Then I felt warmth […]. Then there was the desire to be home.” 

The takeaway

The researchers say the results of the AWARE-II study add to a growing body of evidence that consciousness can persist even when it is clinically undetectable. 

One theory as to why people have similar experiences during an NDE or OBE is due to the similarities in human brains and psychologies.

The results of the study also question the belief that the brain dies after 5-10 minutes of oxygen deprivation.

The researchers hope what they have learned will lead to the development of new treatments to preserve the brain and bring people back to life with full consciousness.