What exactly goes through a person’s head at the moment of death

Memories and recollections of life can really fly before your eyes while you are dying, confirmed the research published a few days ago in the journal “Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience”.

The study described a man who was connected to a brain scanning device after suffering a heart attack and then dying. Brain scans, which have never been made on a dying man before, showed that the man had a type of brain wave associated with memories, meditation and dreams just before his heart started beating, and even a few seconds after that.

This discovery has raised the question of the moment when life really ends, and at the same time provided comfort to the relatives of the deceased, according to Dr. Ajmal Zemar, a neurosurgeon from the University of Louisville.

The study followed an 87-year-old man who was admitted to hospital in 2016 with bleeding in the area between the skull and the brain.

Doctors, including Dr. Zemar, removed the clot, but three days later the man had epileptic seizures. According to standard procedure, the medical team monitored the patient’s condition with an electroencephalogram or EEG to determine the cause of the attack.

But before they could determine the appropriate therapy, the man suffered a heart attack and died.

– That is exactly the reason why brain scans of a dying person are so rare. It’s something you can’t plan. No healthy person will go for an EEG before death, nor can we know exactly when a sick person will die in order to record such signals, the doctor explained.

The EEG of the dying person showed that 15 seconds before his heart stopped beating, the man experienced high-frequency brain waves called gamma oscillations, as well as some slower oscillations including theta, delta, alpha and beta. These waves are associated with concentration, dreams, meditation, recalling events and images from memory, and flashbacks.

The most beautiful moments

It took him and his colleagues almost six years to publish the study, partly because they were waiting to see if another similar case would occur. They found only one similar study in rats in which scientists induced cardiac arrest while simultaneously measuring their brain activity.

– It is very difficult to claim something with only one recorded case, especially when that person had bleeding, epileptic seizures and swelling, ie complications that may affect the result of the research. But what we can confirm with certainty is that we have signals just before death and immediately after the heart stopped equal to those that happen to healthy people when they dream, remember something or meditate, and this research has taught us that although our loved ones have closed their eyes forever, their brains are still reproducing some of the most beautiful moments they have experienced in their lives, the doctor explained.

This discovery coincides with some anecdotal reports about the experiences of people who were close to death and who say that the most emotionally intense moments in life flew before their eyes at that time.

Dr. Parnia, a professor at New York University and author of “What Happens When We Die?” he told Insider that some other research has shown that when people die they experience paradoxical lucidity with pronounced awareness. And that includes a kind of revision of their whole life with their actions, intentions and thoughts – in other words, the humanity they have shown towards others.

– It seems to me that this study confirms that. It is possible that at the same time as many parts of the brain are shutting down due to death, this leads to the unlocking of some other parts of the brain that help people gain insight into another dimension of reality that is not easily accessible to us.

This discovery may prompt the medical community to rethink the time at which a person’s death may actually be declared. When the heart stops beating, doctors declare death and continue with procedures such as organ donation. But this study calls those standards into question, Dr. Zemar said.

– Fifteen seconds may not seem like much time, but in medicine it is not small. If we proclaim a person’s death when their heart stops and then do an organ donation, then maybe we should still wait another 15 seconds after the heart stops to allow them to “fly over” in the minds of their memories? No, I know, but that’s a very definite question that our study has opened up.

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