Scientists are to investigate those near-death experiences, where people talk about floating out of their body, while remaining attached by some kind of umbilical cord, and floating off towards a bright light, bumping into long-dead relatives along the way, before the doctors, with the aid of modern technology, manage to get everything going again and you land all neat into your body ready to live a little longer.
The odd thing about all these accounts is that people appear to be describing very similar experiences. Might it not just be that they have all been reading the same sort of paranormal related literature? Or could it just be that when the body is packing in there are effects on the brain which produce this type of illusion in everyone? Or could there really be something to it? Scientists at the University of Southampton have decided to try and shed a little light on this, and have designed a new experiment to examine near-death experiences in heart attack survivors, which will actually be the largest ever international study into this type of experience, and will involve 1,500 heart attack patients.
Postcards are going to be placed on shelves above the patients’ beds, positioned in such a way that the images on the cards can only be seen from above. Patients who have cardiac arrests will then be asked to recall any memories of the time of the arrest.
The study is led by Dr Sam Parnia, an expert in the field of consciousness during clinical death, and the study will be carried out in the UK, mainland Europe and North America.
“Contrary to popular perception,” says Dr Parnia, “death is not a specific moment. It is a process that begins when the heart stops beating, the lungs stop working and the brain ceases functioning – a medical condition termed cardiac arrest, which from a biological viewpoint is synonymous with clinical death.
“During a cardiac arrest, all three criteria of death are present. There then follows a period of time, which may last from a few seconds to an hour or more, in which emergency medical efforts may succeed in restarting the heart and reversing the dying process. What people experience during this period of cardiac arrest provides a unique window of understanding into what we are all likely to experience during the dying process.”
During the study, doctors will also use sophisticated technology to study the brain and consciousness during cardiac arrest. At the same time, they will test the validity of out of body experiences and claims of being able to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ during cardiac arrest.
It will be interesting to see if there really is anything to the similar stories that have been told about these near-death out-of-body experiences.