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

Dreams vs Reality

This was presented today in a Neurology conference in Norway. I would love to be able to get hold of the full presentation or even an abstract – I couldn’t find it in the EAN programme, but I’m sure Samwise the sleuth will be able to source it. Some of the “highlights” from the linked article summarizing the “study” are discussed below:

Norway Neurology Conference NDE study

Some of the key quotes:

Mystical near-death experiences where people report a range of spiritual and physical symptoms, including out-of-body sensations, seeing or hearing hallucinations, racing thoughts and time distortion, affect around 10 per cent of people, according to a new study that analysed participants from 35 countries

They say this was the same in those whose situation were non life threatening as those with a life-threatening NDE. They also stated that there was a higher incidence of unpleasant experiences than normally associated with these studies (73% of those claiming to have an NDE said it was unpleasant), although this was not the case in those that had a higher Greyson scale score (>7). Since anything below 7 is not normally considered an NDE then it is likely that this observation is irrelevant since those with a Greyson score >7 reported a much higher incidence of pleasant experiences (53% pleasant vs 14% unpleasant).  This says something about the way conclusions are presented in this study because it would actually be a more accurate key conclusion to say that people who experience genuine NDEs are more likely to have a pleasant experience than those that don’t, rather than making it an after thought.

The central conclusion of the study was food for a skeptical neurology audience.

REM sleep intrusion on wakefulness was found to be more common in people with scores of 7 or above on the Greyson NDE Scale (47 per cent) than in people with scores of 6 or below (26 per cent), or in those below the threshold with no such experiences (14 per cent).

Lead researcher Dr Daniel Kondziella, a neurologist at the University of Copenhagen, said, “Our central finding is that we confirmed the association of near-death experiences with REM sleep intrusion. Although association is not causality, identifying the physiological mechanisms behind REM sleep intrusion into wakefulness might advance our understanding of near-death experiences.”

The most important phrase in that quote is “association is not causality”. The relationship  or association may be due to different factors, something that would be good to discuss further in the comments section. I will throw an example thought in there: The causes of REM sleep intrusion may be due to the way that the conscious interacts with the physical mind, and the ability to experience or remember NDEs may be due to the same underlying physio-chemical reasons. Now while the conscious clearly experiences dreams and they can intrude into that waking stage, it does not necessarily follow that NDEs and dreams are the same or even a similar thing…namely the product of brain activity. They both involve the conscious but are significantly different in terms of context, content and quality; the types of experience (REM vs NDE) are not necessarily both a result of brain function, but the ability to experience them or remember them may be. I probably could have explained that better, but I hope you get the gist of it.

The team recruited 1,034 lay people from 35 countries via a crowdsourcing platform online (to eliminate selection bias) and asked them if they’d ever had an NDE. If they answered ‘yes’, they were asked for more details, using a detailed questionnaire assessment tool called the Greyson Near-Death Experience Scale, which asks about 16 specific symptoms.

I need to see the exact way that this was done before I agree that this methodology somehow removes selection bias. If anything my cynical side suspects that this method is going to attract a substantial amount of less than authentic reports.

Anyway, it is hitting the headlines in various news outlets and will no doubt morph into ammo for skeptics to claim that NDEs are just another form of dreaming. However, the (dodgy) data, for the reasons stated above, does not in any way “prove” that NDEs are just another form of dreaming.


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110 thoughts on “Dreams vs Reality

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  1. Hahaha 😀 brilliant


  2. David on said:

    Unlike POTUS we need immigrants . We need people who want to work instead of spending all their time tweeting and golfing…..
    stole tgat from Richard Painter…but it is funny.


    • Spending all their time tweeting, I understand. But golfing? That’s not so bad. At least you’re outdoors and getting fresh air, and not sitting inside and staring at the phone screen. Then again I’m the type of person who’d rather sit outside and read a book or two, than do physical labor. :p


    • Before we go any further…let’s not go any further. Politics is incredibly polarised at the moment, and I want to avoid it on this space. No Trump no Brexit etc discussions here.


      • Kamo on said:

        “Politics is incredibly polarised at the moment, and I want to avoid it on this space.
        No Trump no Brexit etc discussions here.”

        Understood. No more politics here.

        “Some might call it laziness…I won’t argue with them.”

        Some people call me boring just because I’d rather read books than go clubbing. And the fact that I spend more time reading than watching tv.


  3. David on said:

    Ever heard of
    You will like her reporting on someone we talk a lot about here.
    the other stuff…well


  4. Kamo on said:

    Another ‘debunking’ article that shows how NDEs are just something people believe in, because they desperately want to find meaning for their physical illness and traumatic event.

    There are more comments that disagree with the article than the ones that do agree. And of course, the blogger takes that as proof that “people really can’t accept that NDEs are nothing more than coping mechanisms for the injured, and that the mind is the brain. No matter the evidence given to them, they’ll deny.” Nothing new here.
    And so what if Chris Carter and Sam Parnia are dishonest, and have been ignoring, twisting, and dismissing things they dislike? They’re not the only source for NDEs and the like.
    To be honest, I’m skeptical about Carter anyway.

    What’s really funny is that Sam Harris and Annaka Harris, have stepped away from reductionist materialism view, and now see it as a silly view.
    So I think the favorite excuses from skeptics and atheists that “people disagree with physicalism/materialism out of blind-faith, comfort, fear of eternal oblivion, and wanting a reward for their injuries”, is not going to cut it anymore. There are too many former skeptics and former materialists now.
    Someone, somewhere, tried to explain that away as being “a network of neurons. A network that is being re-linked into a different structure for purposes of causal relationship modeling.” Which seems pretty desperate to me.

    *sigh* whatever lets hardline materialists sleep at night.

    But a reality beyond the physical is not as fear-driven or blind faith-based as we thought.


  5. This is probably off topic. I just watched this short clip and he exactly summarised my views on psychology, that dmt studies on NDEs, and other similar things. All they do is write down some checklist with the properties very open to interpretation, then get 10-50 participants to answer the checklist and if they find some correlation in the very small sample size statistics they announce they proved something. When what they should do is recruit as many NDErs who did dmt as possible, and ask how similar the experience was. I made a post at the beginning of this thread about rigour, this video is exactly what I mean. Amazing to see “psychologists” (who are all pseudoscience quacks) call serious NDE researchers like Parnia pseudoscience woo’ers, what he’s doing with veridical perception really is science unlike the bullsh17 you see in psychology. Most of “science” I can say to a mathematician is the same as a teen romance novel.


    • I like that clip Chad. It sums up perfectly the lazy approach of many so-called researchers who have Ph.D. in subjects that are not real science, but like to posture as scientists. Psychologists do stray into that territory, however there is a difference between clinical psychologists and behavioural psychologists, and both have a place, but when they stray outside of that and make claims that are, as you say, pre-determined and result from designing poor studies that could say what they want. Yes, Parnia is the man. Hi study is very well designed.


  6. The Greyson scale is biased, it doesn’t even have any way of scoring repelling affective experiences. Perfectly valid near death experiences, similar to those recounted in Nancy Evans Bush’s book, might not make it past the mid point score to be included as an NDE.

    The Greyson scale really only accounts for a subset of the total pool of available near death experiences. It’s useful insofar as it allows like experiences, to be compared with like experiences, but one should be aware of its limitations.

    Additionally it is self scored, and the questions and scoring are such that those who view their experience with more significance, will score higher, than those who view their experience with less significance. This limits the relevance of the scale.

    It is not some rule that can says whether you did, or did not, experience an NDE It just allows researchers to compare a subset of near death experiences, from the pool of all available experiences. It gathers together people who had a certain type attractive experience, and who also weighted that experience as significant.


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