Evolving news on the science, writing and thinking about Near Death Experiences (NDEs)

COOL news

OK, so Werner and Z both added links to Dr Parnia’s updated website.

Parnia’s research website

Z said there was nothing new, but buried in the list of studies there is something of great interest to those of us who have been following this field for the last 15 years, and it is this:

Conscious Awareness During Deep Hypothermic Circulatory Arrest

In our studies of cardiac arrest and its effects on consciousness, our data led us to hypothesize that higher-quality resuscitation is associated with a higher level of conscious awareness during cardiac arrest and resuscitation, which in turn is associated with improved survival, less severe brain injuries, and a smaller incidence of disorders of consciousness.

A novel way to study consciousness in a setting that biologically mimics clinical death besides cardiac arrest is to study patients undergoing deep hypothermic circulatory arrest (DHCA), a medical technique in which a patient’s temperature is cooled to approximately 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit), shutting down blood circulation and major organ function. This approach is often used by surgeons who need to operate on major blood vessels.

Because DHCA biologically mimics clinical death, but is very well controlled, it provides an excellent opportunity to study consciousness and awareness in a population, which unlike cardiac arrest, has a very high survival rate. We are developing new methods to determine what happens to consciousness before, during, and after this shutdown. We are using various technologies including portable EEG, cerebral oximetry, and visual and audio tools to test implicit and explicit learning as well as recall and memory.

This study complements our work in AWARE II, and we anticipate that we will discover exciting new aspects of the human mind.

This is basically very similar to the COOL study that was started in Montreal, but ended when the surgeon who performed the processes left. It is very exciting since there have been a number of reports over the years that have shown that doing this does indeed create NDE like experiences with OBEs. The key point, that Dr Parnia makes, is that the conditions are predictable and controlled. While there will be many more CAs than these procedures, there is also a much lower chance of survival or recall with a CA, so this route has a chance of producing results more consistently. Very excited to see this happening, and the fact that it is already ongoing, and may lead to results sooner rather than later. Case reports would be very interesting indeed.

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41 thoughts on “COOL news

  1. werner Bartl on said:

    think the text on this information page sounds very positive, as if they had learned new knowledge about the consciousness


  2. werner Bartl on said:

    yes it sounds almost like that, best regards from salzburg


  3. Chad on said:

    He could be switching where to look because he didn’t have hits in aware 2. Just to point out that in taking a rigorous scientific stance, all reasonable skeptic arguments must be considered. Let’s not be worse than the pseudoskeptics who are just out to validate their beliefs.


    • Chad, there’s a difference between optimistic speculation and pseudoscience. The way that the AWARE II study was ramped up, to me, in my optimistic speculative state of mind, suggests that they had a hit, but need to get more. But you are right, we do not know what these events are actually due to, but we are free to speculate provided we do not infer actual results. Subtle difference.


    • @Chad:

      As with all of the noise that erupted when someone posted that higher oxygen levels coincided with better memory recall , you are speculating too much about this complementary study without reading Parnia’s book (or so it seems).

      He has been advocating that “death is a process” that can be slowed doing to a crawl by lowering the patient’s body temperature for a while (i.e., this is just him putting that to the test by using consciousness as a form of “control”.


  4. That the title of a paper related to the original cool study. Unable to attach a direct link but a quick internet should suffice

    Beauregard M, Landry St-Pierre É, Rayburn G, Demers P. (2012) Conscious mental activity during a deep hypothermic cardiocirculatory arrest? Resuscitation 83: e19.


  5. werner Bartl on said:

    Thanks for all Information


  6. David on said:

    Just speculation based on what Parnia has said . He seemed to hint he knew what happened to conscioussness. It was a crptic statement. I dismissed it because the only definitive thing we could say is that consciousness could survive after brain shut down. But it would be unknowable beyond that. Maybe this ? Iscwhat he hinted at.


  7. David on said:

    There was also the nurse in one of the UK studies who said there is absolutely survival after death but she said its not what most people really expect…..which I wish I had printed out. …I always thought she meant there is some hint of reincarnation.


    • Yes I’ve been thinking about how to reconcile the tight link between brain and consciousness, with afterlife. While I’m mostly leaning towards consciousness being independent of the brain – just from the impossibility of material giving rise to consciousness, I think the explanatory gap is an ontological one – I’m also sure looking at the evidence personality cannot survive death. This raises issues because the “self” is defined as someone’s personality and behavioural dispositions, so after death only pure consciousness without any properties should be present and the self dies. But NDErs do report feeling a self, maybe consciousness merely watch through channels like u watch a TV, and there’s a “spirit brain” channel in addition to material brain channel. All I can say from so long time thinking about this is that there’s definitely no traditional cartesian soul, i.e. a soul that does all the thinking and drives the body like a car. Maybe that’s what she meant because to a normal person afterlife means substance dualism, a transparent soul that was the person’s thoughts/emotions/personality.


  8. This is potentially an even better route to demonstrate (once and for all) that consciousness continues after brain function has stopped, IMHO. There can be no quibbling about “little bit’s of consciousness” somewhere in the brain (still functioning) or whatever other objections the “sceptics” clutch at. Everything is stopped; the brain has no neuronal activity whatsoever at such a low temperature.

    This guy (follow the link) had one of these operations (Hypothermic Standstill) to repair a tear in his aorta which occurred from a potentially fatal ‘syndrome’ he suffers from.

    “I was so very aware of myself and knew exactly who I was. My body however was on the operating table below with the doctors and nurses hovering over, cutting sewing and doing whatever thoracic surgeons and their teams do when installing mechanical heart valves and Dacron aorta grafts.”

    I ‘spoke’ to this man via email several times. He had no doubt at all that he really was floating around the operating room (adamant).

    “I absolutely know with certainty that it was me floating in the operating room. Beyond doubt. No doubt. My body on the gurney was not me.”

    There are many more of these cases. Anaesthesiologist Chris Yerington reported a man accurately recounting the serial number from the top of a operating room light
    whilst he was having one of these interventions.

    Similarly, in Dr Rajiv Parti’s book, he recounts another report of “The frozen man!”

    I think it’s just a question of time before someone sees an independent marker (assuming that’s what Parnia is going to do) As to hits in the Aware study, my gut feeling is that they haven’t got one yet because of the very low numbers recruited but I have (personally) very little doubt that they will.


    • I agree this news is very interesting, but I still think that Parnia has hits from AWARE II. The sudden uptick in recruitment activities in the last two years points to that for me. I suspect he may have something from both…what a coup that would be. However, I don’t want Chad getting the hump, so I will stop with the hyperbole!


      • Hi again, Ben (I’ll stick with Ben if that’s okay) do you know something we don’t ? 😉
        You seem very confident…personally, I don’t think he will have had enough OBE’s yet, due to the low recruitment he reported.


      • No, I don’t know anything. The difference between AWARE I and AWARE II, other than the iPad facing the ceiling, is the fact that only survivors are counted as subjects in i the study whereas, bizarrely in AWARE I people who died were included so although they recruited a couple of thousand, the actual participants who could contribute were in the low hundreds. This time around they have changed the inclusion criteria to only include survivors who were able to attend an interview after the event. In 2018 they’d recruited over a hundred. By estimation they’d have at least 1 or 2 hits given the fact that only about 10% have NDEs and of those maybe 25% have OBEs. This would not be enough to provide strong evidence of the OBE being a real phenomenon, you’d need 3-4 or more.

        When they say that the new study compliments it, in my understanding it is not a follow up study like AWARE II which learned from AWARE and applied more rigorous inclusions criteria and methodology, but rather a different type of event that supports evidence for against the whole mind soul duality. Whilst the two events are similar in terms of the fact that the brain is not functioning, the outcomes and trauma involved mean that the ability to collect meaningful data is different.


  9. I belief Christopher’s case was brought to the attention of Titus Rivas


  10. Will on said:

    Not to sound pessimistic, but wouldn’t word of a hit have gotten out somehow by now? I realize these are professionals following a code of ethics, but something of that magnitude would be awfully hard to keep a secret for long, wouldn’t it?

    On a separate but related topic, I read something yesterday about how the brain dies in stages that can take up to 10 minutes. I’m wondering what anyone here believes is the best argument against this being a time when the brain creates the illusion of the self leaving the body, following the light, seeing loved ones, etc. Yes, I know this is called the dying-brain hypothesis, but I don’t know if I’ve read anything convincing that casts doubt upon it, so thought I’d ask others who have been studying this more completely.



    • This has been discussed before. Brain cells take about 10 minutes to completely die, and there is no chance of any recovery after that. However, the brain is effectively inactive bar a few metabolic processes during that 10 minutes after the first few seconds. Sam Parnia has devoted much of his research in resuscitation into improving the length of time that a brain is not active and the cells dying.


    • @Will Brain death is the irretrievable destruction of the majority of brain cells (they burst from chemical reactions). Apparently, (Parnia and other have stated, such as Lance Becker anyway) there is no set time anymore. People have been brought back with no brain damage after many hours with no blood supply to the brain, particularly if they were cold (which slows down the chemical reactions)

      The dying brain theory is historical nonsense. No serious researcher (Blackmore is not a serious researcher) aligns themselves with that anymore but I’m not going to start outlining why, it’s been done to death (no pun intended).

      NDE’s are not illusions. What they see and report is what has actually occurred (OBE portion) and it occurred when there was no brain function (cardiac arrest).
      Pseudo sceptics like Augustine and Woerlee maintain that this is not the case and there is always another explanation. However, if you look at the mountain of cardiac arrest out of body experiences, it’s absurd to continue to deny it.


  11. werner Bartl on said:

    But one must never forget that we do not even know what consciousness is, or whether there is only matter


  12. werner Bartl on said:

    But I think something must have them, otherwise they would not write that it will change our philosophy of mind, or our view, that is in the text of the homepage, why would they lean so far out of the window,


    • I agree. This is a prestigious University hospital, and Parnia is a serious researcher with many publications under his belt. He used to be more circumspect in his comments, but less so in recent years, hence my optimism along with other little signals. Anyone who takes part in these studies must sign a CDA (confidentially agreement) and would liable to lawsuit if they disclosed results without permission of the study team.


      • David on said:

        Less circumspect is understatemen Orson! I agree with you he must have something. The new study lets him try to understand maybe the binding mechanism.


  13. Lukas on said:


    I am new here but after reading this I am getting doubtful of a hit not only about the point Will made but also because of this:

    Because DHCA biologically mimics clinical death, but is very well controlled, it provides an excellent opportunity to study consciousness and awareness in a population, which unlike cardiac arrest, has a very high survival rate.

    The person who wrote this if its Dr. Parnia or someone from his team shows that they have a problem with the survival rate. Which like in AWARE I showed is a problem and there were no hits.

    Second line which gives me doubt about a hit:

    This study complements our work in AWARE II, and we anticipate that we will discover exciting new aspects of the human mind.

    This means again if written by Dr. Parnia or someone from his team that they want to continue their work after AWARE II like it happened after AWARE I. Also what else then new aspects of human mind can be besides that it is alive after death? If they did not prove it in AWARE II with a hit then they must do it again to get this hit.

    I could be wrong but this is what I am getting from these news. Its like the repeating of AWARE I. We failed to get a hit with AWARE I so lets do AWARE II we failed here also with a hit so lets do it in a controlled environment and a new study.

    Sorry for being pesimistic but I get this from the text. I could be wrong..

    I wish you all a nice day.


    • The exciting new aspects of the mind may be that inducing death-like conditions cause the mind to separate from the body without actual death occurring. This is complimentary because Parnia talks a lot about ADEs, actual death experiences, however in this instance death has not actually occurred, but is merely being simulated, so it has lots of interesting philosophical implications if indeed an OBE occurs. I don’t think there is any reason to be pessimistic.


    • I agree with Ben here, I actually take this as slight positive news. Exciting new aspects of human mind suggest to me they are more certain than before of afterlife. At the very least, they are certainly no OBEs in rooms with ipad where the person did not see the image, so news is at least neutral. And in aware 1 both the OBEs were not in rooms with images, a point many pseudoskeptics either don’t know or deliberately ignore.

      Also to Will’s comment about brain active for 10 minutes: I like to add you can test low oxygen yourself if you have low blood pressure. Couch for 15 minutes, then suddenly stand up, that’s what cardiac arrest feels like except maybe x3 the effect. You’ll instantly feel dizzy, feel like nothing in life is important, see sparks in your eyes, lose your peripheral vision (skeptics often use this to explain the tunnel in NDEs, but it’s nothing like the tunnels I read about), and collapse from unconsciousness just before you start to feel normal again. Even if cardiac massage give enough flood flow for a bit of consciousness, there’s still the dizzy/confused feelings that I’ve never read in any NDE accounts.


      • Chad, I think I’ll give self-experimentation a miss thank you! Your point ion AWARE I is well made. It highlighted one of the flaw of the study that there were only a few rooms with pictures on shelves in some odd location. Since most OBEs seem to be from directly above the body, even if they had been in the right room, they possibly would still not have seen the images. They learned a lot from AWARE I and it seems they have implemented a much better design. My one warning all along though is that there must be separation between various people in the study team to insure “blindness”. In particular the interviewer must not be allowed to know what the images on the iPad were. The interviews must be conducted by one person, then the results cross referenced with the iPAD images by someone different.


  14. I know what Chad us ralking about. I haveblow bp plus migranes plus allergies asthma. In one combo I had double vision and near pass out. Mt brain scans look great. This season my nose with close and I get dizzy before mouth takes over. But none of this us like the NDE because I have blood flow. But it shows how sensitive the brainbis to minor disruptions. So it makes the NDE even more inexplicable through these conventional explanations.


  15. Not to diverge (again), but just wondering if anyone has seen a good argument for the “told to return” aspect of NDEs from a materialistic point of view. In other words, if we allow that the NDE is the brain making up a story to make death easier for the body its in, how does it suddenly know to have a “character” (a mother or grandfather, say) tell the now-not dying person that he has to return and live?
    (By the way, I realize several of you said the dying brain hypothesis has been dumped by most critics, but if that’s so, what has taken its place and what evidence do you have that it really has been tossed aside? Just curious, since I can’t find it).


  16. David on said:

    Parnias work Will. Brain us dead brain no intercellular communication within seconds of CA. Brain cells live on 10 minutes or more depending on resusitation actions. As to an explanation of anything well there are none. Because anything conscious that happens between CA and revival could not have occured in shutdown brain unless there is one magic neuron. Also cpr keeps cells from death it does not restart intercellular communication. That communication is electrochemical and is picked up on EEG.


    • I saw this in the news earlier, and will be creating a new post about it. I am somewhat more cynical about this work than Dr Parnia.


    • Parnia mentioned this on many occasions, he probably posted this because this is the first direct evidence of his claims. I don’t see how this has anything to do with NDEs, this is only about individual cells not consciousness, which requires global coordinated brain activity if materialism is to be believed (and that is lost 30 seconds after cardiac arrest). So Ben why would you be cynical?


  17. David on said:

    This was a nothing sausage bruger. There was no electric signally. Some cells were not dead. Parnias research on humans has shown this. I can hardly wait until clean meat arrives and we can stop killing a billion pigs a year. Chad I am cynical because Nature is hyping nothing. I found his last tweet interesting too.


  18. David on said:

    I am craftmeat on twitter. I responded I found Dr. Parnia too gracious.


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