Scientific evidence of very brief "life after death"?


Shouldn’t that be “We had believed the brain can’t function [for more than 20-30 seconds] after the heart has stopped beating”?


That isn’t “life after death”, brief or otherwise. It’s life, which in the cases of those being surveyed, didn’t end.


I wonder how common it is (or how difficult it would be to arrange/shove past the IRB/etc.) to electrode-up patients in the contexts where near-death-experiences tend to occur?

A patient with no heartbeat and continuing brain activity is an interesting test case for how long ye olde neural network can hang on without support. A patient who can accurately report on sensory phenomena that occurred during a period of no brain activity? Now that would actually be quite something.

Given that you won’t last long without circulation, I can understand why doctors would be focused on restarting the heart; but it really isn’t a very interesting organ from the perspective of studying consciousness shutdown. They aren’t suspected of being an organ terribly closely linked to cognition(except as support), and we’ve had patients survive for weeks or longer with mechanical pumps in place of hearts.

If you aren’t watching the brain while gathering information on occurrence and accuracy of subjective experience you are largely wasting your time…


Exactly this.

Life is not contingent upon a heartbeat. A stopped heart is merely a condition which leads to organ failure and death - not the threshold of death itself.

In fact, there are living, breathing, healthy humans walking around without heartbeats at this very moment. Medical science has learned that so long as you still circulate the blood at a steady rate, the mechanisms of the heart itself can be done away with.

As I understand it, this was discovered because certain individuals suffering from heart problems who were outfitted with circulatory assistance pumps continued to live after their actual hearts failed, thanks to the auxilliary pumps keeping the blood flowing in place of the heart’s natural action. Heart failure isn’t ideal, but the fact remains that you can survive so long as you keep the blood flowing through the body, via whatever means necessary.

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When I was doing my paramedic internship one section was anesthesiology where I was intubating and monitoring surgical patients. At my hospital there were some great teaching anesthesiologists and surgeons who both interested me in going to med school and permitted me to go way over my minimum OR hours. Life and finance later changed my path.
Firstly the stress of surgery and anesthesiology leads to a high relative rate of cardiac arrests in a very controlled situation, making it a perfect situation to have experimental EEG recording. There is an ethical reason to have EEG running during surgery, to monitor consciousness, one of the agents used is a paralytic, which without an inducing agent leads to waking state inability to control skeletal muscle while permitting full sensation, sometimes a patient will not respond to the ‘sleep’ agent for some reason, other times it is simply forgotten. Maybe the woo factor wouldn’t justify surgical EEG but other science probably would though cost would be a factor in universal acceptance.

So, this is life after heartbeat going on for three minutes. but consciousness or awakeness is probably over in 30 seconds or less. I mean folks getting the guillotine aren’t watching a commercial beak before fading off into oblivion.

Life after death is a meaningless proposition unless consciousness could somehow be shown to exist independently of the physical body. A few extra minutes still shackled to the old meat wagon is nobody’s idea of immorality. The only evidence we have that consciousness exists PRIOR to death is subjective introspection - it seems a bit hopeful to imagine that we could scientifically prove the continued existence of consciousness after death, were it to exist, when we can’t scientifically prove the existence of consciousness before death.



Probably not awake, but still alive - which is why if they restart your heart quickly, you typically don’t end up in a coffin.

That’s a bit of a dihydrogen oxide argument. Not only is the state not life after death, but the patients survived to report the auditory stimulus. Some patients also had what are commonly known as out of body experiences too, but they’re not really out of their body.

The point is in some cases consciousness is lasting far longer than people previously thought possible before this study. Woo has been confirmed as fact. The report is using the common-language terms, even when they don’t make literal sense, as shorthand. I’m sure the full study documentation uses more accurate medical terms.

I hadn’t considered this until I read Fup by Jim Dodge. In the book, a character is fully aware of his last breath and still alert. The thought has stuck with me for years.

Man, that sucks. When I go I want it to be instantaneous. Smash me between a couple ten ton pieces of steel so I don’t have any time to fret about whatever I’ll consider important in such a situation.

Or worse, listening to people standing around begging me to not die. Fuck that noise, dying should be fun.

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When the revolution finally comes, the guillotine will be equipped with eeg…
The length of the display pike will be proportional to the time of post discorporation consciousness.

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There are really two different questions at play here: team Immortal Soul wants a near-death-experience that proves that they’ll be issued a harp and cloud and sent off to the afterlife of their doctrinal preference. This is indeed something that you cannot prove even with a fairly robust demonstration of awareness in a patient who shuts down and is successfully revived.

However, if you are engaged in the dualist/materialist duel, a robust demonstration of mental activity in the absence of suitable neural correlates would be quite remarkable, and exactly what you are looking for: It may still be the case that sustaining immaterial thought is what the brain does(which might be why episodes of consciousness in NDEs tend to be so brief and why reviving any but the freshest of the dead is pretty difficult); but it would exclude thought from being what the brain does.

It wouldn’t make for a popular metaphysics; but there’s no obvious reason why postulating a ‘spirit realm’ with an even more vicious variant on the second law of thermodynamics, one that annihilates all consciousness-level spirit entities in minutes without material input(coming soon, D20 rulebook!), is any more or less plausible than postulating one that is eternal and unchanging, yet somehow supports the processes of change that occur during cognition.

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I haven’t read the full article but is this based on anecdotal evidence or actual brain readings?

If anecdotal how do we know the experience wasn’t some form of déjà vu? i.e. a recent memory that feels like a distant memory.

Heaven as an oxygen deprived 3 minutes is probably not the idea that most Christians warm their cockles over. I do suppose it is a bit nicer of an idea than what the preponderance of evidence suggests, That there is no afterlife and the brain is not an antenna picking up your souls signal from the other side, but the physical creator of our thoughts.

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For anyone wishing to read the article rather than sensationalist linkbaity “reportage” thereabout:

Short story short: 1 person of 140 interviewed “accurately described people, sounds, and activities from his resuscitation” including the operation of an automatic external defibrillator.

That this occurred beyond thirty seconds of initial CA is what’s interesting. If it weren’t just the one account it would be far more interesting. It would also be cool if neuroimaging were possible during such episodes (which probably won’t be feasible for many years).

The finding is kinda neat, but it’s also just a subjective report which (of the 140 interviewed) happens to jibe with the actuality of his surroundings. Could be a fluke, could be a legit bloodflow phenomenon refreshing his brain, could be funky isolated electrical behavior of his brain… could be a great many things. Very sparse on info.

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Toss me in the skeptics pile too. I don’t believe life is tied lock-step with a beating heart…

Customers of the guillotine seem to indicate otherwise. Look up the case of Henri Languille toward the end of this:

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There has been discussion about the possible release of the chemical DMT in the brain in times of high stress. Though still unproven, it would account for some of the spiritual interpretations of near-death experiences. I also recall reading about a study of NDEs that was done in several different countries, and while Westerners tend to see tunnels and lights, Indians tend to see rivers.

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by the headline, I thought your comment was what the post would be about. far more interesting, IMO.