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:
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!