AwareofAware

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

Of Mice and Men (or rats and humans)

Thank you Jordan for letting me know that the Parnia lab has added a video of the AHA presentation to their YouTube channel. Here is the link below:

Audio with slides of Dr Parnia’s presentation of the AWARE II study at AHA November 2022

First of all, the slides were ever so slightly different from the ones that I posted a couple of weeks ago, but there was nothing fundamentally different in the message. The presentation was very balanced and factual in nature. He is a very good presenter and extremely credible. Key points:

  1. Around the 5 minute mark he discusses recruitment and details the huge issues they have with getting significant numbers to the interview stage. While this is frustrating for everyone who wishes to get enough data to be able to draw definitive conclusions, we must acknowledge that the Parnia lab are doing their very best to get results.
  2. At 10.20 he discusses the EEG data, and this is where the title of this post has come from. We have data from EEG in rats suggesting that there is some brain activity, and we have human data from previous case studies and now AWARE II suggesting “spikes” in EEG activity, including some gammar, which he specifically states is “usually associated with consious thought processes, recall of memory and so on…”. It is important to note that the amount of gammar is not presented.
  3. At 11.35 he makes a very intriguing comment in the discussion on implicit learning. He acknowledges that the sample size was too small and that we need larger studies to get better information on testing the implicit learning aspect, but he said this: “we had one case that worked“. Nothing more. Mmm.
  4. He spends a considerable amount of time on the fact that most patients when discussing their life review focus on morality and ethics rather than religion. He suggests this is curious and intimates that this is not something easily explained by medical or scientific understanding.

There is very little for the dualist in his presentation, but without exceptionally strong supporting evidence, I would not expect that at a scientific congress like this one. He gives lots of meat to the materialists, more so than we thought. The suggested implication that the EEG spikes are associated with consious processes and memory recall is provocative to us, especially without any specific evidence that links the two seperate observations (they may not even be in the same people). I believe he is giving attendees the opportunity to think what they want of this, and many will go down the rat route and mix dubious association with actual causation. It is unclear from this whether he believes this to be the case, but given his past statements, I suspect not.

As stated previously, in the absence of time stamped EEG data correlating with specific recollections, the EEG data is thought provoking, but does not inform us what is actually happening. I very much hope the paper will have more on this.

But what about the case “that worked”? No further details were provided, and I suspect he is saving that for the final publication. Is he referring to the 1 visual or 2 auditory recollections? Why did it “work”? Watch this space, but suffice to say, once again Parnia is leaving us in a state of expectant limbo!

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99 thoughts on “Of Mice and Men (or rats and humans)

  1. This is my first time writing here but since I have thought about what they mean by implicit and explicit learning a lot, here is what I think: by the one case that “worked” I would guess they mean the case with acurate recall of the auditory stimulus. As “implicit recall” are memories that one does not conciously know about, I think it’s likely that they test for it by asking patients if they have seen/ heard anything (explicit recall) and if they cannot remember to have done so, ask them to identify the correct stimulus out of several (the right fruit out of 10 for example). It’s likely that the patient with correct auditory recall denied any auditory awareness but was able to identify the audio later. That would make it implicit (doesn’t remember having heard anything) recall (recalls the correct stimulus)

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  2. Valentin on said:

    Wondering why we need such process at all from evolutionary viewpoint?

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    • No one has ever provided a sensible explanation of how NDEs provide survival advantage, especially given how rare they were before modern CPR.

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      • Valentin on said:

        I think you can propose, that some “Moral high” person which survived NDE, return and prophet new moral ground for society, but yeah – before XX century it was exceptionally rare + if it is correlated to age ( who will care about child or even 20s experience)…

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      • They don’t necessarily need to.

        It could just be some weird process that happens. There’s plenty of things in our bodies or in other animals that don’t offer an advantage or are even a hindrance.

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    • Also, can you imagine the number of different genetic mutations that would be required IF the consciousness is a result of physiology.

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      • Valentin on said:

        I prefer quantum physics paradox – there is either multiverse ( which is huge metaphysic by own) or we need accept some non materialistic viewpoint in this Universe 🙂

        + what about all those “before death” visions, which in some sense is related to NDEs

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  3. So is he officially taking a materialist view now?

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  4. Paul Battista on said:

    More research is definitely needled. I’m hoping for either aware 3 or a continuance of aware 2. I’ve been studying near death experences for 30 years now. How do you explain veridical perception and peak in Darien experences. Just to namexa few. I’m not saying that there’s not a scientific answer, just that at this point in time, I don’t know what it is. I also recommend reading Dr. Bruce Greyson book After. It’s a good read on the su and ofcNDES

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  5. Charlie on said:

    Good, very neutral and medical presentation, as would be expected at a respected medical conference. I do think it’s interesting how he did sneak in some non materialist hints in his conclusions, speaking of disinhibition, the lack of explanation for moral and ethical reflections, and reiterating the “truth” of these experiences. It sounds like he got some remarkable testimonials even if OBEs are lacking. In all, I think he just does a great job of speaking to his audience and he is refreshingly unbiased

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  6. I do feel there is a heavy physicalist leaning in this presentation. The questions is how does this relate to previous statements by Parnia, which are clearly not in the same vein. I also wonder how much of this has to do with the need to keep attention and funding dedicated to the project. Given how little data it produced I imagine they need to bang up the pots a bit more to keep attention on the project. I guess we’ll see if Parnia’s statements are a qualitative change. Either way, as other commenters have expressed, this does little to explain reports of veridical perception, and I’m not altogether sure this (activity recorded by eeg) is evidence against the notion of survival of consciousness.

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    • I’ll correct myself to say that, after hearing it multiple times, it’s not necessarily a materialist or physicalist interpretation, it’s just that he’s relaying data in a very dry manner.

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  7. Is there details about the duration of these “spikes?” Given the duration of ndes an occasional spike would sound inadequate given such detailed recollections.

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    • Hi Tony, nice to have you with us. He says the majority of time is flat line, an he does not give much detail on the nature of these spikes except to suggest that the EEG readouts could be indicative of higher processes such as consciousness or memory formation. I suspect the details to support this statement will be in the paper. Until we see that it is impossible to draw any definitive conclusions though.

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  8. Eduardo on said:

    Parnia, as is his characteristic of late, using ambiguous language, unclear, and even contrary to what he stated in his essay to Bigelow in November 2021….

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    • He’s speaking to his audience. I am a committed christian, and very certain in my beliefs, but I rarely discuss it here because it because it is inappropriate for this audience. To other audiences I say how information from NDEs, when combined with other “data” points to the truth of the gospels. If I did that here, I would lose most people because it is not why people come here, and therefore I would be disrespecting them. The same for Parnia. When he talking to an audience open to the understanding that NDEs are “real”, he speaks much more like his Bigelow essay, but to a sceptical audience he is much more factual and allows for the possibility that his data could be interpreted in another way.

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      • I don’t totally agree with you, Ben. Parnia should be clear and not generate confusion among open-minded skeptics. Pseudo-skeptics do not worry me as they are closed-minded…Parnia in some expressions even incurs in medical contradictions.

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      • I am trying to be diplomatic and give him the benefit of the doubt. In truth I found his presentation was very balanced given the data he presented. He was not discussing veridical OBEs etc therefore he was unable invoke dualism in any shape or form given the data from AWARE II.

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      • Eduardo on said:

        As I stated Ben, this is a sample of the confusion generated by Sam Parnia.
        According to Parnia’s statements in Neo .Life the peaks of these waves in question.
        1) emerge for a very short period of time, and
        2) do so when the rest of the brain has a flat background.
        This leads one to believe that these peaks are far from reaching and reflecting a lucid consciousness such as an NDE.
        This means that at best it would be an intermittent consciousness.”
        And we know that an intermittent consciousness does not occur in NDEs, whose accounts are almost always about a continuous, rather than fragmentary and discontinuous, experience.
        That is why I argue Parnia should be clearer and not so enigmatic.

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      • I sympathise with your frustrations Eduardo and as you know have stated as much myself.

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      • Eduardo on said:

        Ben here is another inconsistency and ambiguity from Sam Parnia. In the written report of the November 6 meeting in Chicago it reads:
        “As the brain shuts down, many of its natural braking systems are released. Known as disinhibition, this provides access to the depths of a person’s consciousness, including stored memories, thoughts from early childhood to death, and other aspects of reality.”
        And now in the video, just as he did when it was the case of the 87-year-old man of Zemmar and team, when talking about disinhibition he states that it is disinhibition but of “some parts of the brain”, and not of the “consciousness”.
        In the first statement there is room for a dualistic interpretation…in the second not…Parnia only creates confusion…It seems to me that, besides being a good scientist, one must be a good communicator. We must not forget that the launching of the Aware in 2008 took place at the United Nations.

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  9. Sam has to be one of the biggest fence sitters in an area I’ve ever seen. After all these years I still don’t really know where he stands with this.

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    • I think it is good that we don’t know for sure where he stands, but we have a pretty good idea from his writing outside of the medical scientific format. Even the consensus statement gave lots if room for a dualism understanding. But a convention…without hard data. Nope.

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  10. I’m just excited for the paper to come out and for this to all be done to be honest. While it’ll certainly be interesting to see if the EEG activity matches up to the hits, that’s about all I’m in it for at this point.

    I’ve definitely been unnerved by this whole thing, seeing how many people have frantically been speculating on Parnia’s own opinions on his results and whether or not he’s secrelty a physicalist, dualist or whatever at heart. Parnia is a scientist, his philosophical opinions are not privvy to anyone and nor should they be, he keeps them professionally seperate from his research and we should respect him for it.

    Plus people need to stop being so paranoid about the whole thing, the chips fall where they may and that’s fine. No need to get obsessed about it.

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  11. Thanks for link and new thread Orson. Also I found it interesting him talking about morality/ethics in life reviews (he answers a question also at the end during the Q and A). Logically, I suppose, there are these options,

    1. Something in biological evolution (materialistic). I saw a general 2021 paper, “The evolutionary origin of near-death experiences: a systematic investigation” – they suggest death-feigning to explain NDEs. I couldn’t see if they had “explained” life reviews.
    2. Expanding 1., still materialistic, a higher purely internal pseudo-soul overseeing your life. An illusion for some reason.
    3. A non-material higher inner soul of ourselves guiding us, or an external soul agent (which *is* reported often) doing the guiding.

    Why there’s the feeling of how you treat others and feel what they feel (something Sam has repeatedly emphasized over the years) in the review makes more sense with 3. An internal or external teaching. I kind of think statistically that there are so many mental phenomena that could occur from a materialist POV, the fact that life reviews happen constantly, I think, rules out a statistical fluke explanation, ruling out 1. or 2.

    1. and 2. also ignore firstly, parapsychological evidence (peer-reviewed overview in American Psychologist, Cardena 2018) which I’ve never seen any materialist paper on NDE explanations cite and secondly, at least one veridical NDE (only one is needed! – take your pick – one white crow proves not all crows are black), also not cited by materialist papers. Again, Sam has before said people report things they shouldn’t ordinarily be able to see.

    I suspect he’s gradually and with subtlety easing people into evidence for a paradigm shift.

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    • Let’s hope he is. It is possible he setting the stage with tidbits of evidence that may point to materialism, to show that argument has been considered, then if strong “scientifically verified” evidence emerges to support the non-materialistic understanding he will show he is balanced.

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  12. So, we still lack evidence of conscious experience without correlated neural activity in the brain. The claim has been that the brain shuts down after cardiac arrest, and therefore that the conscious experiences reported in NDEs occur without correlated brain activity. Now we see that the brain generates spikes of activity normally associated with conscious experience in the people who report having been conscious. This is to be expected if the current working hypothesis of the scientific community is correct: the mind is what the brain does. The life review may be the brain searching through all memories for a similar crisis situation / disruption of blood supply, so if found it can do whatever it did to survive the last time. There is nothing in this presentation which suggests to me the need to postulate substance dualism.

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    • Hi Vidar,

      This statement is incorrect:

      “Now we see that the brain generates spikes of activity normally associated with conscious experience in the people who report having been conscious.”

      There is no association or correlation with any reports of consciousness from this or any other study looking at REDs/TEDs/ADEs/NDEs. The association of the signals is with normal reports of conscious activity.

      Hope that is clear.

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      • Parnia says from 10:20 – 11:00 that the spikes seem to be biomarkers of consciousness in “these patients”, and this is right after he talked about patients having a life review. Previously it was believed that the brain remained completely dormant 20 seconds after a cardiac arrest. Now we see that it is not entirely dormant, and that spikes of different kinds of brain activity can occur as late as 60 minutes after CA. There no longer seems (to me, anyway) to be any need to assume that experience is happening without brain activity. To me it seems perfectly reasonable to assume that the conscious NDE-episodes are correlated with the spikes in brain activity.

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      • Given that only 2 of the patients who were interviewed (26 in total) had EEGs that were readable, gamma (and likely) alpha across the whole study is low and that only 6 of the 26 had NDE like recollections, I would be gobsmacked if he was able to show that these NDEs were correlated with EEG activity associated with normal levels of consciousness. However, you reminded of why his presentation did rankle me a bit. His wording is suggestive of association of EEG activity with report of consciousness and that all gets muddled with NDEs, but could equally be CIPRIC. We will just have to wait till the paper, but giving the low number of readable EEG printouts, I am putting my money on there not being any correlation with a TED let alone a time stamped correlation with an NDEs with full OBE.

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      • I agree that it will probably be difficult to prove that one particular episode was correlated with a measured spike, unless a patient heard something that can be timestamped. But the larger point I think remains. The brain doesn’t completely and permanently shut down after a cardiac arrest, at least during resuscitation. Hence, the decades old argument that patients having an NDE during cardiac arrest proves conscious experience can happen without a functioning brain no longer holds water. I would love for this not to be so, but this seems to me to be what the evidence suggests.

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      • We could do this one forever, and it’s been done on this blog many times. To resolve this issue you need one or more of the following:

        1. An NDE correlated with EEG readout with activity that is consistent with conscious activity or

        2. A time stamped OBE with flatline EEG.

        Either of these would provide very strong evidence for one side or other of the argument. At the moment, I believe we have neither. Random delta and theta waves with a wee bit of alpha and gamma here and there in patients who were never interviewed is completely meaningless.

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      • Charlie on said:

        I agree Ben but I think we have to acknowledge the results challenge a position NDE supporters have held for years that brain activity should be flat after 20-30 seconds. Of course as you said there’s no way to connect EEG spurts to these phenomenal experiences. But it’s something I can see why NDE supporter opinions are being challenged based on their prior arguments. I have to really wonder how much the population studied (cardiac patients being resuscitated) might influence the duration of the EEG findings

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      • We have known about threats for ages, and the coma patients who died and who had EEG after death. With good CPR I would expect some flickers of brain activity. Correlated EEG-NDE aside, no EEG could ever account veridical OBEs. That has always been my fall back.

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      • I just don’t know what to think, really. Parnia’s fence sitting is confusing the heck out of me. Why can’t he just say it’s a little bit of both? That’s what it all sounds like.

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    • Valentin on said:

      Mind searching?

      Check how mind really working in sportsmens for instance ( reaction time and other things). With this analogy you must have NDE every time when something new hit you ( like tooth removal, big sports injury and etc

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      • Well, I had a friend who was in a car accident, and he told me that in the few seconds before the crash, he saw stills of his whole life flashing before his eyes. He obviously survived the incident, and he did so without any lasting damage. He did not think of it as a life review, or an ethical evaluation of choices. He just saw images from his whole life flashing before his eyes right before the crash. To me, the brain searching for similar episodes to find a way out of a threatening situation seems reasonable. It is of course nothing more than an hypothesis, but it makes evolutionary sense.

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    • Hi Vidar, “the mind is what the brain does. The life review may be the brain searching through all memories for a similar crisis situation / disruption of blood supply, so if found it can do whatever it did to survive the last time.”

      Occurs to me a guided life review that’s often reported is congruent with the mind being a separate phenomenon from the brain. And the entity doing the guiding would of course be a distinct mind without a material element. Then how would an evolutionary or at least material argument fit the reports of such an external agent doing the guiding? Why go to all the bother of seemingly and quite convincingly fooling the experiencer that they were having a real experience, something which they also report? In itself, that would be quite a trick for a barely functioning brain to achieve.
      It also seems your premise possibly implies a panicking NDEer during the experience, but I haven’t come across this in reports, rather accompanying strong feelings of peace.

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      • No, I don’t think panic is necessary, and my friend certainly did not describe panicking. Many people are unusually calm during life threatening situations, but have a reaction later, when the danger has passed. As for the guide and all that, it depends on how much actually happens during the experience, and what the brain perhaps adds later. It is very good at filling in blanks to make sense out of an experience. It may later confabulate to add meaning to the life flashing before one’s eyes. But of course, I don’t know that it is not a glimpse of the afterlife. It does, however, seem strange that NDEs are so different across different cultures. In Thailand and India, people meet lord Yama and see what Hindus and Buddhists might expect to encounter in the afterlife. Meeting dead relatives is exceedingly rare, because these cultures believe in rebirth, and so there is an expectation that relatives will have moved on to the next life. So, I think there might be a sort of skeleton experience which happens for a very brief period during the dying process, and if one survives, the brain embellishes and fleshes out the core experience in accordance with cultural expectations. Whether the core experience is based on something truly outside the body or is difficult to say. I guess we’ll find out when we die, or perhaps not 🙂

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      • “It does, however, seem strange that NDEs are so different across different cultures.”

        This is incorrect because there are core features across cultures. From the Horizon Research Foundation.
        http://www.horizonresearch.org/near-death/intro-to-the-nde-phenomena/religion-culture-and-near-death-experiences/

        “Now, the central features of an NDE have been recorded throughout history (3), (4) and across numerous cultures and religious groups. Reports of an NDE have also been described by atheists as well as those with a particular faith, whether it be as practicing members or non practicing members of a particular religion.

        Some studies have been carried out with the aim of studying near
        death experiences in non-Western cultures.

        Historically, events closely resembling a near death experience have been described by Bolivian, Argentinean and North American Indians and also in Buddhist texts, Islamic texts and accounts from China, Siberia and Finland. The most common features are:

        a) Having an out of body experience;

        b) A reunion with ancestors and departed friends;

        c) An experience of light accompanied by joy and peace;

        d) A border or dividing line between the living and the dead.”

        Common features, you see. One point, your view would only be NDEs are hallucinations, but Parnia does not say this.

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    • Valentin on said:

      About your friends ” quick NDE” – what about “moral lessons and etc” there? Was he changed by this experience? Looks like he simply skipped it?? 🙂

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    • An important thing to note is that AWARE only studies patients that have undergone CPR because it is the easiest situation to record brain activity in near death events. The famous Pam Reynolds case is an example of someone undergoing an NDE when there is no brain activity, with there being at least one other instance of someone having an NDE when undergoing the same procedure. Brain activity also doesn’t account for veridical experiences, though there were unfortunately no hits during AWARE2.

      Pretty much everything that has come out of this is stuff we already knew. We already knew brain activity can sporadically continue for someone undergoing CPR, the question is whether or not this is enough to accomodate for all the experiences that happen during NDEs. I would also say that the searching for another similar situation idea of life review has been critiqued by other near death researchers.

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  13. Marc Brown on said:

    Doesn’t the spikes in EEG activity disprove the idea that NDE’s are real? If people who have NDE’s are shown to have large spikes in EEG activity before losing conciousness, it’s clear that the memories of the NDE are created by that spike

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  14. Eduardo on said:

    This is a sample of the confusion generated by Sam Parnia.
    According to Parnia’s statements in Neo .Life the peaks of these waves in question.
    1) emerge for a very short period of time, and
    2) do so when the rest of the brain has a flat background.
    This leads one to believe that these peaks are far from reaching and reflecting a lucid consciousness such as an NDE.
    This means that at best it would be an intermittent consciousness.”
    And we know that an intermittent consciousness does not occur in NDEs, whose accounts are almost always about a continuous, rather than fragmentary and discontinuous, experience.
    That is why I argue Parnia should be clearer and not so enigmatic..

    Here is another inconsistency and ambiguity from Sam Parnia. In the written report of the November 6 meeting in Chicago it reads:
    “As the brain shuts down, many of its natural braking systems are released. Known as disinhibition, this provides access to the depths of a person’s consciousness, including stored memories, thoughts from early childhood to death, and other aspects of reality.”
    And now in the video, just as he did when it was the case of the 87-year-old man of Zemmar and team, when talking about disinhibition he states that it is disinhibition but of “some parts of the brain”, and not of the “consciousness”.
    In the first statement there is room for a dualistic interpretation…in the second not…Parnia only creates confusion…It seems to me that, besides being a good scientist, one must be a good communicator. We must not forget that the launching of the Aware in 2008 took place at the United Nations.

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  15. Eduardo on said:

    One obscure point is that true cardiac arrests may not have been studied in their entirety in AWARE II.
    One might ask why only barely half (47%) of the EEGs analyzed in AWARE II remained flat?
    -The answer perhaps, based on what Parnia has stated from 2017 to date (either through his twitter account or on the Parnia Lab website), is due to the fact that some patients may have a beating heart but are so sick that their pulse is weak and impalpable by hand, and doctors then initiate CPR on them. That is, sometimes a person’s heart has not actually stopped, but is beating very weakly, so the person still has such a low blood pressure that a pulse cannot be felt…Those people are also treated with CPR…But since the heart is still beating, the addition of CPR allows the “diastolic” blood pressure to rise enough to get more blood to the brain and sometimes even “wake” the person up.
    In a real or true “cardiac arrest,” on the other hand, there is no heartbeat and no blood pressure.
    This is a point that deserves clarification and could detract from the credibility of the data.

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  16. Im a bit out of the loop as to what Parnia has said earlier this year. Anyone have a link to the Bigelow essay or the zoom call people have mentioned before?

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  17. @Alan, a few similarities which may have a neurological basis do not negate the vast differences. Read a few NDE accounts from Sri-Lanka, Thailand, etc. They are truly vastly different, even though some of them contain a few common elements with western accounts, such as a life review. In Thailand, the life review is typically conducted by Lord Yama or his servant Devas, who consults his books listing your merits, and it will decide whether you will be reborn in one of several realms, such as hell realms, animal realm, hungry ghosts, or one of the many deva realms. For instance, having donated food or items to the Sangha of Monks is considered good merit and will get you to a deva-realm. This is a vital part of Thai and Buddhist culture in general. Monks are not allowed to work or produce their own food/clothing, because they should rely on lay people for this. They are not supposed to be self-sufficient. The lay people in turn receive merit towards a good rebirth and teachings from the monks. You rarely see in western NDEs that you get credit with God or the angels for donating to the Church/monastics. As mentioned above, dead relatives are typically a no show in Asian NDEs, because they would have moved on. There are accounts of people seeing animals being reborn as humans and vice versa. Such differences and many others need to be accounted for if one thinks the experiences are of a real afterlife instead of being illusions (or perhaps they are both?) 🙂

    @Valentin, there were no moral lessons. The whole episode happened during a few seconds. Time slowed down and he saw still images from his whole life flashing before his eyes. I wonder if a core experience like this happens to the cardiac arrest patient, and upon awakening and recalling, the brain embellishes and fills in the blanks with meaning. Confabulation is a very real thing the brain does to fill in data in memories. This could explain why easteners have different life reviews than westeners. There could be a very basic core experience which the brain embellishes with expected details upon recall, after surviving.

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    • You’re assuming the mind is the brain, in the sense that of one grants that NDEs could be what they appear to be, that consciousness somehow doesn’t depend on the brain, then the discrepancies you point to are to be expected given that what survives is a mind, a mind that is now not in a physical, objective environment, but a psychological one. You seem to be expecting NDErs to be visiting a place that is physically real and thus a consensus as to how it looks or whatever is warranted. If this state is a psychic one, of course the expectations of the mind would make the experience different.

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      • I do think the human mind at least to some extent depends on the brain for its existence, and also on sense data, but I consider myself agnostic about whether anything survives death or if rebirth in some form is real. However, having a glass of beer is enough to demonstrate that the mind is not entirely non-physical. Not to mention general anesthesia, what brain damage does to the mind, etc. My mind is also quite different from that of a cat or a crocodile. A male heterosexual cat, for instance, does not seem to find human women particularly attractive, but he is attracted to female cats in a way humans cannot be. And humans don’t start making weird noises when they see a bird in the garden through the living room window. I do think our different brains and biology explains those, and many other differences. As for the afterlife being purely psychological, it is a position that is difficult to falsify, but it falls under the illusion category I mentioned above. Both some Hindus and Vajrayana Buddhists do think the afterlife is a dreamlike illusion / a mental realm (but still subject to karma), and they may be right, but most people I talk to who believe in an afterlife do not seem to subscribe to this position. It would be a form of solipsism, and I would have to believe that everything I experience in such a realm comes from my own mind. So if I read a textbook of physics in that realm, it all comes from my mind. As does everything else I experience. So a 12 year old boy who dies and goes to videogame heaven actually has a mind that will dream up any game for him better than hundreds of human game designers can, without any training in game design. I personally do not find that persuasive. Do I even interact with others there? Or do Mormons get a private Mormon heaven, Hindus get private hindu heaven, Muslims get private Muslim heaven etc., and remain trapped in their own dreamworld? I guess anything is possibe, but I need evidence to believe it is true.

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      • An interesting personal speculative philosophical perspective. I also speculate on these things, but I tend to narrow my mental wondering to the religious and scientific knowledge that I believe to be true and that is corroborated by NDE accounts. I am not aware of any child NDE accounts where they end up in Call of Duty 😁

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    • Anthony on said:

      @Vidar
      It is true what you say that there are variations in near-death experiences depending on the religious beliefs of people or if someone is an atheist. My opinion is that most of these experiences are due to something physiological, a mechanism that perhaps generates the brain in the moments after death, a brain that clings to life and in most cases provides us with a pleasant ending, with an illusory reunion with our loved ones, with God, with our animals, our memories, etc, etc. The great mystery in this regard may be out-of-body experiences and perhaps there consciousness does emerge in some way outside the brain. How long? Impossible to know at this time. But I am convinced that we are biological beings with a clear beginning and end, but perhaps that end does not occur just at the moment our heart stops, perhaps a little later

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  18. @Vidar I would say any speculation into the nature of the afterlife just from NDEs is a fruitless endeavor. Would be better to look into parapsychology for that, you might find some of the professional ideas about NDEs there appealing as well.

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  19. Excellent response Alan, thank you.

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  20. It seems to be new:

    Here Parnia uses his catch phrases from the last articles plus is referring to the brain as an undiscovered entity again.

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    • lol I meant the mind, not the brain 😉

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    • I think this resonates pretty well with a recent interview with Roger Penrose! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfouEFuB-co) The full article is behind paywall, unfortunately.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Well that is very different from his presentation to AHA. It is very clear that he leans strongly towards dualism still. Think he needs to do his zoom calls in a decent office rather than a cupboard though!

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    • Hello, although I label myself as agnostic/atheist, I think that consciousness is a mystery that is not solvable by the current science. Personally, I suspect that it might have something to do with issues with self-reference that appear in mathematics and logic (I’m an ex-researcher in those, but moved to engineering). Anyway, I would not expect a groundbreaking data from AWARE, but it might be a very important piece of puzzle that can guide researchers for many years to come. I would like to recommend reading a new interview with Roger Penrose (behind a paywall, at New Scientists website) or listening to parts of it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfouEFuB-co
      Many scientists are quite open minded and academia is not as hostile as you might believe from reading blogs by “skeptics”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think that millennials and Gen Z especially have less antagonism towards non-materialistic philosophies, and as they begin to populate the low and mid tiers of academia, the stance towards research that threatens the old materialist order will soften.

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  21. Kind of concerning. We don’t know really if the spikes correlated with the NDE or not. Or if it occurred when there weren’t any spikes or brain activity. If this leads nowhere and it’s just all brain and no immaterial thought I’m going to be disappointed and we are then better off just pursuing goals to end aging and other things that can kill us so we survive. Erasure scares me. It’s the one thing that terrifies me. Eventually being forgotten in eternal dreamless sleep.

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  22. What about shared death experiences? Those people have completely healthy brains (I assume) and they still have those profound transcendental experiences. Are we really going to say that everything is just in and because of the brain?

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  23. By this point I expect parnia to show that the EEG Readings were in patients having an NDE. I’m glad I joined materialism years ago.

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  24. I just have to break my silence because I feel that far too many commentators are jumping into the conclusion without understanding the current scientific theories we have relating to consciousness, and the relationship between consciousness and EEG. It wasn’t until the 2000s that mainstream science had begun accepting consciousness as a real phenomena and this subject had always been on the fringes of science.

    Some of the leading scientific theories on consciousness are mostly based on the presumption that the brain operates in a classical manner, and these theories are at the risk of being disproven because they were proposed at the time where there were still a lot of unknowns and they still have many loopholes even after many revisions. They assume that consciousness is computational and proposed that consciousness is a byproduct of this complex computational effect. David Chalmers has gone as far as suggesting that computer simulated brains are conscious, I believe these people have a very poor understanding of how computer program works. It’s almost like saying that you can start driving real cars onto a FEA simulated bridge or roads, I just fail to see how billions or trillions of transistors can simply become conscious by having them wired together.

    Whereas, some recent cross-disciplinary studies have shown that human brains may rely on quantum entablements: https://bigthink.com/hard-science/quantum-entanglement-consciousness/
    Some of these articles and hypothesis are even covered by leading scientific outlets such as the New Scientist:
https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg25634130-100-roger-penrose-consciousness-must-be-beyond-computable-physics/
    It is already proven the birds rely on quantum mechanisms to see the earth’s magnetic field lines for seasonal migrations:
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-migrating-birds-use-quantum-effects-to-navigate/

    This suggests it is highly possible that our consciousness is not something which is easily explainable in the classical manner, also note the so-called local realism is already proven false meaning the properties of particles or objects can be influenced not only by its immediate surroundings and there is no definite properties for a particle until it is measured. Albert Einstein was famously quoted saying “How do you know the moon is there if you’re not looking?”
    Put these bigger ideas aside, I am no expert in human biology or the medical field but I do know for certain that there is no evidence or what so ever to suggest consciousness is arising as a result of the EEG waves, and the relationship between the two is only a correlation at best. Should watch this interview with a German neurologist: https://yewtu.be/watch?v=K12eOkYxb_U
    What I understood from all of Parnia’s statements is that brain waves are being recorded even during cardiac arrest and it is in their view paradoxical since we currently don’t have any theories to account for that, neither does it provide any support for non-materialist nor materialist views. Hence, the rhetorical question on whether these waves are generated by a NDE, or the other way around. Lastly, we haven’t yet been able to ascribe these recordings to the patients reporting NDE experiences.

    Even Dr. Zemmar from the brain wave spike paper was quoted saying “the whole near-death experience is mystical and spiritual” Regardless of what their views are, there is no evidence from these two separate studies to indicate that consciousness will be annihilated post-mortem, or vice versa.
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-60495730

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nice summary AW. I think the fact that Parnia used the radio and signal analogy in his interview as a possible explanation shows where his thinking is. I describe this in similar terms in my book…I see the brain as the interface between our consciousness and the physical world. We don’t see with our eyes, we only see after our nerves in our eyes transmit signals to our brains which then are interpreted so our consciousness “sees”.And asEinstein points to “what are we seeing?” Is it actually real?And what is reality? I believe that quantum mechanical processes lie at the heart of the interface between the observed reality and the “real” reality of the consciousness…one described in NDEs.

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  25. Peter K on said:

    Hi,

    I did not have the time at the moment to view the video or read all the comments. But as I can see from the text, they are talking about the spikes that had already been measured at reads.

    As this paper was published some years ago, I had a discussion with scientist working in this area on molecular neurobiology and hypoxia.

    Conclusion:
    At an very early stage, the synaptic transmission comes to an absolute standstill. This synaptic transmission is essential for any conscious thought or perception. Do not forget, that these synaptic couplings are also the base for the neural aspect of memory.
    This spreading waves we can see at the hypoxic state, are not a synchronous firing of big cell assemblies (or the complete brain) but these are a sign of a complete depolarization of each cell. We do not have a synchronized (“synaptic”) neural activity but rather a complete loss of functionality which results in the situation, that each cell on its own depolarizes.

    So if Sam Parnia or any other scientist sees this neural activity as an evidence for conscious thinking or perception, the complete area of neurobiology needs to be re-written. This shows more or less, that these scientist have no knowledge on molecular neurobiology. Nevertheless, they are great scientists in their area.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Peter K on said:

    If there is interest to read more about this topic, there is a good work from Zandt et. al “Neural Dynamics during Anoxia and the “Wave of Death”. This paper describes also, that as synaptic activity increases, such findings can be simulated by a single cell model.

    https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0022127

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Peter K on said:

    “Increase” should mean “decrease” of course. I should read the text before I post it.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Hi! I’m new here, but after reading a few comments and the opinions after the event of AHA 2022, I’d like to share my insight about the spikes in the EEG that were talked about during their presentation and also considering Dr. Parnia’s comments in the video posted here above. I must say that I don’t have any scientific background, so it’s just some interpretation coming from an ordinary person who’s very interested in this field.

    However, let’s consider the metaphor that Dr. Parnia and some others have used about the brain acting like a TV – as if the brain it’s a tool, not the source of consciousness. In this scenario, let’s imagine that a TV is going to “die”, in the sense that it’s no longer producing images and sound. We try to fix the TV, messing around with its component to bring it back to a normal state. During this time, the TV show some funky images and some noises, while we’re trying to fix it. There are only two outcomes for this TV: it goes broken for good (dies) or we can fix it (alive). If we manage to bring it back to a normal state, those funky images and noises become again as normal video and audio. Now, we know that the TV does not produce images or audio. Television transmitters use one of two different technologies: analog, in which the picture and sound are transmitted by analog signals modulated onto the radio carrier wave, and digital in which the picture and sound are transmitted by digital signals.

    So, what if, these spikes shown in the EEG are not consciousness itself, but it’s actually the brain “transmitting” consciousness, the same way a TV transmits signals into images and audio? If we take into account what Parnia had said previously, that death is a process, it would also mean that the brain it’s still a functional tool, until the cells deteriorated for good. So, it could still “capture” consciousness in the spikes shown in the EEG, but it doesn’t mean that these spikes are the NDE itself, but only what the brains could “capture” at that moment, because, let’s not forget, they are trying to bring that person back.

    Also, if we look at the title Parnia used on the ppt. presentation in the video where he talked about the spikes (10m30), it’s titled “Resumption of Network Leval Cortical Function?”. I could be wrong, but it’s not said that these spikes are the NDE experience itself, but, as I mentioned above, it could be that the brain is “capturing”, in spikes, what’s happening in the NDE/RED moment. And as one could argue, to captor is very distinctive from to produce. Obviously, we still need to see the full article to be sure what they found and if the EEG was related to NDE/RED at all. But, even if they happened during the NDE/RED, it is still not final that they are the NDE/RED itself, as Parnia himself seems to suggest when we watch his interview in the video above. After all, he’s been very clear to say that RED is not a hallucination or delusion, but a very real experience. He even said, “I’m not planning with words when I say that the person is dead”.

    Sorry for the long post! Hopefully, I didn’t stumble too much that I didn’t make myself clear!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Becky, nice to have you on board. The spikes could be all kinds of things, including the suggestions you make. It will be very hard to ever fully determine precisely what they are until we have spikes correlated with time stamped experiences. Otherwise they could be anything.

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      • Hey Ben! Thank you for welcoming me! I totally agree! Right now, these spikes don’t mean anything, and we cannot affirm they swing towards a materialistic explanation for sure. However, even though they observed it during the CPR, Parnia and his team (or most of them at least) still led toward a dualist explanation, which is very intriguing.

        Liked by 1 person

    • All I can say is if it is all just the brain which is my main concern with what is being said I’m going to have crippling thanatophobia for the rest of my life.

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      • The only cure I know for this condition is faith in Jesus Christ. I don’t preach on this blog, or try to proselytise, but you are clearly very troubled by this fear, and I feel compelled to share what I believe with certainty to be the answer to your very rational concern.

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      • Well faith would be rendered pointless if the results prove the lack of continual existence. Hence my negativity. You are better off not dying if that is proven to be the case. Invest in SENS and LEAF to get rejuvenation research more mainstream.

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      • If the results disprove the testimony of thousands of reliable people and healthcare professionals, and disprove the thinking and experiences of billions who have come to conclude in the existence of the eternal soul, then you may have a point. Big IF though.

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      • Anthony on said:

        I would like a post-death life if I am later reunited with my deceased loved ones, otherwise I would absolutely care if there was something later. In the end and being objective there is nothing to fear, the void will not give us feelings of any kind, neither fear, nor sadness, nor joy, it will be like when they give you an anesthetic in most cases that absolutely nothing is perceived or you go to sleep and do not dream or feel until you wake up. Do you remember anything 50 years before you were born? Probably not. This is how it will be after death unless something really exists, which I doubt more and more

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      • Hi Anthony. What has made you doubt more and more and more?

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  29. Ben,

    On a side note, your blog title reminded me of the late materialist Francis Crick’s book Of Molecules and Men. Crick would definitely be the antithesis of this blog, especially when he went into neuroscience where he would later publish The Astonishing Hypothesis – that you are just a bunch of neurons and of course there is no afterlife. That argument seems to have been better during the days of him, BF Skinner and that generation. Not really holding water these days…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am more familiar with Crick’s thinking on the origin of DNA, a topic on which I wrote my book DNA: The Elephant in the Lab. He concluded, as many who have really contemplated this problem have, that life could not possibly have come into existence on earth through a natural process, so he came up with panspermia…the idea that life arrived from another planet. That just shifts the same problem, which is one of statistics, to somewhere else in a universe not big enough to solve the conundrum. Clever chap, but just didn’t want to see the truth.

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      • Funny you should mention DNA. I am currently reading Simon Conway Morris’ (a Christian theistic evolutionary biologist) book on convergent evolution – it seems like DNA may not have been a miracle with a capital M but somehow inevitable by the constraining environment. Almost like biology has a teleology (from whom you might ask?)

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      • I don’t pay an awful lot of attention to evolutionary biologists, they don’t seem to understand he fundamental issues at the heart of the problem. There is nothing inevitable about the appearance of DNA, let alone a functional cell.

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  30. Eduardo on said:

    On these markers of consciousness (for Parnia) at the moment of death

    There are few cases with alleged NDEs in the Aware Study whose elements can be verified and corroborated.

    However, Sam Parnia claims to have discovered biomarkers of consciousness that would be reflecting the lucid conscious experience that millions of people have reported at the moment of death, called NDEs.

    But isn’t this a bold claim, given that half of the EEGs analyzed were flat?

    Moreover, it is to be expected that in many cases the patient, after having been resuscitated, relates in the corresponding interview that he left his body but, at the same time, does not tell anything that could be corroborated or verified with respect to his immediate surroundings. Then, he continues his story by affirming that he lived a series of experiences that would indicate that he had entered a transmaterial or spiritual phase?

    How can it be correlated, then, through the account that the NDE that the patient claims to have experienced occurred at those precise moments when those supposed markers of consciousness (for Parnia and team) that appear in his EEG were registered?

    That NDE – in whose account there is nothing that can be corroborated or verified – becomes an entirely subjective experience of the patient… It could have occurred either at a given moment of the arrest or at another, or, perhaps, during the entire duration of the coma (that is, from the instant in which the heart stops until he finally wakes up).

    There is no way of knowing.

    Liked by 1 person

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