What near-death experiences can tell scientists about how the brain works

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/05/22/what-near-death-experiences-ca.html

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I recall reading about this years and years ago, from my limited memory some drugs given to patients have been found to induce near death experiences. I don’t know how common that is however, though a google search shows that some illegal drugs can trigger similar experiences too.


Koch is a titan of the field. He and Francis Crick pretty much launched the search for the neural correlates of consciousness back in 1990 when they published “Towards a neurobiological theory of consciousness.” Anyway, I’m excited to check out this SciAm piece!


Floating out of your body and looking down on it. The story of your life flashing by before your eyes. Seeing a bright light at the end of a dark tunnel. These are just two of the most common experiences that people report after a near-death experience (NDE).


From everything that I’ve read, “near death experiences” mostly take place in situations where the patients were in no actual risk of dying (even without any medical attention). In fact, the most common trigger involved fainting… It seems to be a very specific - and fairly minor - degree of reduction of oxygen to the brain that causes the phenomenon, which could be drug-induced, but I’ve also read that certain drugs can replicate specific parts of the “near death” experience as well.


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