Near death experiences in cardiac arrest: visions of a dying brain or visions of a new science of consciousness


      Very little is known about the dying process and in particular the state of the human mind at the end of life. Cardiac arrest is the final step in the dying process irrespective of cause, and is also the closest physiological model of the dying process. Recent studies in cardiac arrest survivors have indicated that although the majority of cardiac arrest survivors have no memory recall from the event, nevertheless approximately 10% develop memories that are consistent with typical near death experiences. These include an ability to ‘see’ and recall specific detailed descriptions of the resuscitation, as verified by resuscitation staff. Many studies in humans and animals have indicated that brain function ceases during cardiac arrest, thus raising the question of how such lucid, well-structured thought processes with reasoning and memory formation can occur at such a time. This has led to much interest as regards the potential implications for the study of consciousness and its relationship with the brain, which still remains an enigma. In this article, we will review published research examining brain physiology and function during cardiac arrest as well as its potential relationship with near death experiences during this time. Finally, we will explore the contribution that near death experiences during cardiac arrest may make to the wider understanding of human consciousness.


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      Portuguese Abstract and Keywords
      Sabe-se pouco acerca do processo de morte e em particular sobre o estado da mente humana no fim da vida. A paragem cardı́aca é o passo final no processo de morte independentemente da causa e é também o modelo fisiológico mais próximo do processo de morte. Estudos recentes em sobreviventes de paragem cardı́aca indicam que embora a maioria dos sobreviventes de paragem cardı́aca não tenham nenhuma memória do evento, contudo cerca de 10% desenvolvem memórias que são consistentes com experiências tı́picas de “quase morte”. Estas incluem a capacidade de “ver” e relembrar descrições detalhadas especı́ficas da reanimação, que estão de acordo com o que foi verificado pela equipa de reanimação. Muitos estudos em humanos e animais têm indicado que a função cerebral cessa durante a paragem cardı́aca, levantando a questão de como é que processos tão lúcidos e bem estruturados, com compreensão e formação de memória, podem ocorrer nesta altura. Estas situações despertam grande interesse já que têm implicações sobre a relação da consciência com o cérebro, que ainda permanecem um enigma. Neste artigo os autores revêm pesquisas publicadas examinando a fisiologia do cérebro e a sua função durante a paragem cardı́aca, bem como a sua potencial relação com experiências de “quase morte” durante este perı́odo. Finalmente, exploramos a contribuição que as experiências de “quase morte”, durante a paragem cardı́aca, podem ter para a melhor compreensão da consciência humana.Palavras chave: Paragem cardı́aca; Experiências de “quase morte”; Cerebro a morrer; Visôes de uma nova ciênciaSpanish Abstract and Keywords
      Se sabe muy poco acerca del proceso de muerte, y en particular del estado de la mente al final de la vida. El paro cardı́aco, sin importar su causa, es el paso final y el modelo fisiológico más cercano del proceso de morir. Estudios recientes en sobrevivientes de paro cardı́aco, han indicado que aunque la mayorı́a de ellos no tiene recuerdos del evento, cerca del 10% desarrolla recuerdos que son consistentes con las experiencias ‘cercanas a la muerte’. Estos incluyen una capacidad para ver y recordar ciertos detalles de su resucitación, coincidentes con lo ocurrido. Muchos estudios en humanos y en animales han indicado que la función cerebral se detiene durante el paro cardı́aco, haciendo que nos preguntemos cómo pueden ocurrir en ese momento procesos de pensamiento tan lúcidos, bien estructurados, con razonamiento y formación de memoria. Esto ha llevado a un creciente interés por las implicancias potenciales del estudio de la conciencia y su relación con el cerebro, hecho que sigue siendo un enigma. En este artı́culo revisaremos la investigación publicada examinando la fisiologı́a y función cerebral durante el paro cardı́aco y su potencial relación con experiencias ‘cercanas a la muerte’ durante este evento. Finalmente, exploraremos la contribución que las experiencias ‘cercanas a la muerte’ pueden hacer para mejorar la comprensión de la conciencia humana durante el paro cardı́aco.Palabras clave: Experiencias cercanas a la muerte; Paro cardı́aco; Cerebro agónico; Visiones de una ciencia