AwareofAware

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

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Life review – just the brain closing down…really?

I love this clip, which I think is from the video of the discussion from a month back, which has now been posted on YouTube, but I just want to focus on this as these accounts are a huge lesson for all humanity:

This is one of the researchers from Parnia’s lab who describes a fairly typical account of a life review. These are almost always reported in exactly the same terms. When you listen to this, it is an absolute nonsense to believe that this could possibly be a result of the Brain shutting down.

Really worth watching. Other videos have been posted on their YouTube channel:

https://youtube.com/channel/UCOsbYu-vLtG6xOZKO09rwGw

You say tomat[e]o, I say toma[re]to – NDE/RED/CPRIC

Thanks again to the eternally vigilant “Z” for spotting this paper which begs the oft repeated question – are NDEs/REDs just another form of CPRIC (CPR induced consciousness)? It is a question that we have answered at length in many past posts but it is important to revisit this due to the context in which it is raised.

While Parnia is not the main author, his influence on it is present, and his work is mentioned and forms part of the analysis. The other authors are from Southmead in Bristol UK, Toronto and Cologne, Germany. Southmead Hospital has a neurology research centre associated with the University of Bristol, and I have been there a fair bit in recent years due to my work in sleep medicine and Alzheimer’s disease (work that has suddenly come to an abrupt end unfortunately due to the vagaries of government regulatory and reimbursement bodies)

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666520422000418

Title of the paper: CPR-related cognitive activity, consciousness, awareness and recall, and its management: A scoping review

At first it seems that they are lumping NDEs/REDs in with CPR induced consciousness. From the intro:

“Two types of cognitive activity and awareness were identified [during CPR]. The first includes visible signs of consciousness such as combativeness, groaning, and eye opening and was referred to as CPR induced consciousness. The second, a perception of lucidity with visual and auditory awareness and recall without external signs of consciousness.”

This is then clarified further in the discussion:

“It could be assumed that pain and distress would be expected in patients showing overt physical signs of con- sciousness through CPR. On the other hand, there have also been cases documented where survivors experiencing more transcendental post cardiac arrest experiences whilst not showing signs of pain or distress have benefited from the experience with it having a positive impact on the patient’s life. When considering treatment options, it may be beneficial to consider these two experiences as two separate entities.”

You reckon!? I suspect that the last sentence was most likely due to Parnia’s influence as a co-author.

All of the key pieces of AWARE data published and presented to date, from I (2014) and II (2019), is included in this review, and therefore, in this paper at least, NDEs are lumped in with CPRIC as events of consciousness that occur DURING CPR – related to CPR. This last point is the most important. Association and causation are two different things, and while the first type of experience, where there are physical signs of consciousness, are undoubtedly caused by CPR, the second, RED/NDE type, is only associated in these cases with CPR. The fact that NDEs have been reported outside of the context of CPR further differentiates them from CPRIC, but this is not discussed in the paper, and these types of experience seem to have been put aside for now by Sam Parnia, most likely for very good reasons, possibly to narrow the field of research to experiences that occur in strictly defined situations with scientifically measurable outcomes.

However, despite the fact that the paper does concede that NDE type events are only associated with periods during which CPR is being conducted, you can guarantee skeptics will cite this paper as further evidence that REDs are due to physiological reasons, and nothing else.

As an aside, having lived on both sides of the pond, I can attest to the fact that you really do need to get your pronunciation of the word describing the small round red vegetable correct to be understood. I remember asking a stewardess on a flight to Ottawa for a can of tomato juice, and being a recent arrival to North America, I was still saying Toma[re]to…and despite repeating it 3 times she had no idea what I was saying. It was very strange indeed, I might as well have been asking for a football, it seemed impossible for her to make the connection between the word I was saying and the numerous cans of the substance she had right in front of her on her trolley. It was only when I said Tomat[e]o that she understood. From that point on I reluctantly adopted the local dialect when it came to certain words, particularly important due to the fact that at the time I was smoking and working in HIV (English smokers will know exactly what I am referring to!) Having returned to the UK I have managed to revert back to the mother tongue, except for the word loo…just can’t use it any more, so I still find myself saying washroom! My wife laughs at me for not returning to the British vernacular for the word toilet, despite the fact that she is a Kiwi and therefore has to juggle 3 forms of English in her head. The only concession I make on this is to use the word “bog”, which is another English word to describe toilet, but I generally do not use it other than when I am in a pub with a group of mates, since this word is not deemed polite.

AWARE II: 15% of people had REDs

This is the first time I think that Dr. Parnia has mentioned any specific numbers from the forthcoming and much anticipated publication of data from AWARE II. A nice teaser quote from the UK Telegraph this weekend:

“Dr Parnia said soon-to-be published research will show that around 15 per cent of people who have been resuscitated from a coma after cardiac arrest have a Recalled Experience of Death.”

Daily Telegraph, 7th May 2022. Sarah Knapton, Science Editor

Link to latest AWARE II teaser

(it is behind a paywall, and given it is mostly a summary of the consensus statement and the state of the field, useful and informative to the wider public, but won’t be news to most here – except for the quote I have given)

Of course it is possible that this could be from his other research which from my understanding is a retrospective database analysis of reports they have collected from NYU and other establishments over the years, but I don’t think he would necessarily be able to state such a well defined number since, unlike AWARE II, that work is not a prospective study that looks at incidence of NDE among all those who survive a CA. Moreover, the fact that he has been trailing the publication of AWARE II for months now, would suggest it is from this study.

I think this is very important as I assume that he will be using the new criteria for REDs to differentiate from other experiences. It also significantly increases the chances of a “HIT”…by about 50% in fact. Given the rigour with which his team at NYU are conducting this research, I think that 15% will become the established number…provided the wider survivor cohort is sufficiently large.

I also think it is really important to consider that OBEs have largely been redefined as EVAs (external visual awareness), which by their very definition require VISUAL recollections. For a long time here we have been discussing the possibility of auditory OBEs , but in the consensus paper these are only mentioned in the context of accompanying an EVA and not a significant phenomenon in its own right.

There are some good NDEs in the comments section of the telegraph article, including one from a chap who had 3 CAs but only produced a single RED. This has been reported before on numerous occasions and points to Dr Parnia’s assertion that most, if not all, people who die and are resuscitated have an NDE (not a RED), but most can’t recall them due to physiological and/or biochemical reasons (which is why they aren’t REDs). This undermines one of the theories I state in my book, which I would be very happy to see undermined as it is not all that pleasant!!

Reminder in the link of my book which I recently updated (available amazon globally). I will be writing another update post AWARE II publication which, in addition to analysis of the new data, will include adjustments and additions to the possible theories as to why 80-90% can’t recall their NDE. This will reflect some of the excellent analysis provided on this topic in the consensus paper.

Link to my book on the AWARE studies

Really good to see the MSM, particularly a respected broadsheet like The Telegraph, take this seriously and report it in a balanced objective manner.

The Art Of Fence Sitting

There has been a press release and a few Tweets from the Parnia lab. Here is a key quote from the press release:

“So far, the researchers say, evidence suggests that neither physiological nor cognitive processes end with death and that although systematic studies have not been able to absolutely prove the reality or meaning of patients’ experiences and claims of awareness in relation to death, it has been impossible to disclaim them either.”

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/recalled-experiences-surrounding-death-more-than-hallucinations-301519733.html

Here is the tweet that will cause the most consternation among the majority who come here:

“One of the most exciting discoveries – brain activity associated with heightened states of consciousness has been shown to be present even during cardiac arrest. This marks a pivotal moment in the study of recalled experiences of death and in our understanding of consciousness.”

In the past I have occasionally been a bit abrasive or less than complimentary about aspects of research or things that have been said by the Parnia lab. A while back I resolved to stop doing that, because while I find the words entertaining to write, if people associated with the lab read this blog, they may not find them entertaining to read and I have enormous respect for them. However, today I am struggling to stifle the snarky side, but I will do my very best from letting any acid bleed onto the page and remain as objective and even in my commentary of these statements as possible. However, I am going to unpick them surgically as I know that people will latch on to certain phrases, and they need to be addressed.

To the first statement. Does it reveal any new research findings? No. So the key question is what do they mean by “evidence suggests that neither physiological nor cognitive processes end with death”?

In the absence of unpublished new evidence or definitions of death, human physiological processes must by the definition of the word physiological, end with death. The definition of death using Sam Parnia’s own definition in previous publications, is the cessation of all measurable heart and central nervous system activity. Some definitions include respiratory processes, which can occur during CPR, and is possibly why time of death is declared on cessation of CPR. This all creates a semantic problem.

The first semantic problem is that physiological processes cannot happen after death. Biological processes such as changes in cellular chemistry continue after death, but it is actually impossible for physiological processes to continue unless the definition of physiological has changed. CPR is a grey area, but it is also the area which is most relevant to discussions of REDs or NDEs.

The second semantic problem occurs with the use of the new term RED.

For the word physiological to be correct they must now be defining the period where there is no heartbeat but CPR is being performed and therefore passive respiration is occurring, as a period where the patient is alive. If so, they have moved the goal posts and in doing so RED becomes an incorrect expression for all experiences reported during this period because they are not experiences occurring during their new definition of death…they are however “nearly”dead…mmm, can anyone think of a term to describe an experience that happens when someone is nearly dead? Anyone?

I hope any readers from the Parnia lab will allow me one indulgence of snarkiness when I ask people to rearrange the words: their eat can’t and they it have cake.

The second term, “cognitive” is much more straight forward. My current work in Alzheimer’s focuses on tests that measure changes in cognition and the definition of cognition is; “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.” This is precisely what is reported during REDs or NDEs. No disputing this.

The statement then goes on to say that studies have so far been unable to prove or disprove the reality or meaning of patients claims of awareness during death.

Well that depends on whether you regard the testimony of thousands of credible individuals including healthcare professionals as evidence that provides proof. If you do, then it is proven. However, as I have stated on here numerous times, these experiences have not been scientifically validated/proven using modern scientific, digital (non-human) methods.

If I have missed something and this press release says anything new then please let me know in the comments.

Let’s move on to the Tweet. This refers to the recent “straw man”case and possibly to their own findings which they mentioned in the AHA poster in 2019 (and likely subsequent unpublished findings). In the Straw Man case, EEG activity sufficient to be associated with consciousness was measured for up to 30 seconds after death. I repeat for the nth time, there were no recollections of consciousness because the patient never recovered. There was no reported life review, or other element of a RED reported.

In the AHA poster it was reported that EEG levels that could be associated with conscious activity were measured up to 90 minutes after death (but during CPR…so were they dead?). Despite repeated efforts to get an answer to the question of whether or not there were reported experiences of consciousness during these EEG episodes, no more details have emerged. They have the data. They know whether those patients survived and were interviewed, but through reasons only they know, which I am sure are good, they have chosen not to share these important details with the wider community for over 2 years now.

Until we are presented with validated reported recollections of consciousness, either during periods of EEG activity, or in the absence of EEG activity, these findings are interesting, but not relevant to informing the scientific community on the nature of REDs (or NDEs if a patient is not technically dead during CPR 🙂 ).

Until the Parnia lab, or other researchers, present time stamped validated reports of consciousness matched with EEG data we have not moved forward significantly from the 1970s in terms of scientifically proving one way or the other what is going on.

To me these statements represent scientific fence sitting. They are very much in character with some of Dr Parnia’s previous enigmatic statements. To one community, the NDE community, he unequivocally states his belief in dualism based on scientific evidence, to the other community, the medical scientific community, he presents a more nuanced position in which the data might support the understanding that these conscious episodes are due to underlying “physiological” processes.


However, sitting on the fence is a precarious position to take, and the fence is getting thinner as he gathers more data, and at some point he will need to get off the fence, especially when addressing fellow scientists of a sceptical disposition. He can obviously only do that when he has actual data to support what he says though.

Lucid Dying Zoom Discussion – lots of talk…

Due to North America changing their clocks a couple of weeks ahead of the UK, I joined the Lucid Dying Zoom discussion an hour late. I had no excuse, I spent 7 years living in Canada, so knew this happened. Anyway, when I did join I felt that the discussion was lacking in new substance and very philosophical, with the occasional comment around science. I do think Sam Parnia was maybe catching up on emails by the looks of him during the segments I watched, but he did make a couple of very relevant contributions.

1. If you go by NDE accounts, then the soul is not some nebulous entity that gets absorbed back into a greater universal consciousness, but is an individual entity, that has a sense of self.

2. He will be publishing data soon that goes some way to confirming the findings of the recent case report of the patient who died while connected to EEG, and showed activity just before and just after death. As usual, he was somewhat enigmatic in his comments, and difficult to read. Also, his sound was not brilliant, so it will be good to listen to that again when the video is uploaded later this week.

Thankfully there were other members of this group who did turn up on time, and I thank Mery for his post which summarises the majority of the discussions in excellent detail below:

My first impression was disappointment mixed with “wow I am really enjoying this talk”. By disappointment I mean that the presenting text for the talk in the Dana foundation web (and Parnia Lab I believe) stated that they would be discussing new discoveries in this field important for society etc…thus I thought that they would be presenting some new data, or results from psychedelic studies…I was surprised when after more than 1h they were leaning towards consciousness being something else, not produced by the brain, etc and my impression was “ok, this has become a philosophy room against materialism”.


I thought that by including a researcher in the psychedelic field they had turned into materialism and that didn’t make sense since few months ago Parnia denied the drug-psychedelic states as something similar to NDEs (his Essay, the new classification of REDs…). Then it turned out that this researcher sounded more into dualism (or whatever) and he even said that the neurotransmitters involved didn’t matter (I was like what…?).


Since Donald Hoffman was invited I thought that he would be defending consciousness being fundamental, but then a neurologist was there…and she didn’t position herself, and was respectful on the view of dualism of others… somebody in the talk (I can’t remember who It was) even stated that the brain might be a transmitter, and what I perceived is that all of them agreed.
I was expecting a debate at least. Or a presentation of new findings and a dissertation over them…so a bit disappointed in that way, BUT I really enjoyed their insights and was a beautiful talk.
So, and I haven’t seen the part of the EEG comment on the straw man article, I agree with Charlie, one respected researcher doesn’t write an Essay defending survival, doesn’t spend 2 hours publicly defending the brain as a transmitter, and consciousness being fundamental/not produced by the brain whatever… And then rescinding everything he said with a very vague comment.


Parnia Lab has so far only spoke of the famous alpha rithms, and I am sure as Charlie said he has been asked for weeks about his opinion and of course he has to provide an answer.
So I think we are just where we were a week ago: he seems to be more prone to the immaterial consciousness (like the idea defended in his Essay) but then a wild strange comment appears!

EVA in RED

Although we may hopefully be talking about an EVA in RED, it won’t be about this one:

It will be about something far more exciting than the fashion choices of glamorous women!

So I have paid $15 for 72 hours access to this article. That is a bit galling, but probably worth it…and I don’t like pinching other writers material, no matter how much of a rip off it is (click on pic for link):

The article is very important as it lays a baseline for our understanding of the subject of REDs (authentic NDEs), creates key definitions for the subject and criteria that meet those definitions, and finally sets out the direction for future research. It is a consensus statement that is authored by some of the top names in the field with Sam Parnia being the first author. It is needed to avoid the kind of nonsense we have experienced over the past few days in which a publication called something an NDE which was in fact only a period of EEG readings from a dying person who never reported an experience.

My first comments are on the two new acronyms that have been created to more precisely define the different reported experiences:

RED – recalled experience of death

EVA – external visual awareness (formally OBE)

I get the need to move away from NDE, but RED? I occasionally work with marketeers to transform medical data into user friendly visuals, and red is a color that is always associated with negativity. For example, when creating a graph, we are never allowed to put a competitor’s data in red as this could be seen as biasing perception. I understand that the words forming the acronym are precise, it is just unfortunate that the acronym itself spells something that is associated with “stop” or “danger”. I know they have been struggling with this for a while, with ADE, TED etc and now RED, but just for aesthetic reasons, it may have been worth persevering a bit longer. I guess we haven’t helped. Either way, we are now stuck with this since it is part of this consensus. So from now it will be RED.

The paper is very long and contains some great material, but the key thing is the tight criteria for an experience to be defined as a RED:

1. A relation to death.

2. A sense of transcendence.

3. Ineffability.

4. Positive transformative effects (relating to meaning and purpose of life).

5. Severity of illness that leads to loss of consciousness (LOC), together with:

6. The absence of features related to other coma related experiences.

More succinctly, a RED “is defined as a specific cognitive and emotional experience that occurs during a period of LOC in relation to a life-threatening event, including Cardiac Arrest”. They go on to state that LOC “relates to assessments from the perspective of a clinician or other external observer, even though from the perspective of the person experiencing a RED, often there was no perception of any LOC”.

They also outline a fundamental narrative for REDs. This was actually something I mentioned yesterday in the comments on the Straw Man…the life review is often at the end of the sequence of events before the sense of returning. The narrative arc is basically:

1. Perceived Death and Separation from the Body.

2. Heading to a “Destination”

3. Reliving the recording of life that is educational

4. Being “Home” again

5. Returning back to life

6. Reported effects after the experience.

This is the basic narrative, but they list a whole range of other facets of REDs that are reported such as meeting a creative source and whatnot.

They then lay out why REDs are distinguishable from other experiences such as ICU delirium, drug induced hallucinations etc and the central theme of this differentiation is in fact the clear narrative that is reported in REDs. I have concerns with that because people could easily “fake a RED” if they know this narrative and happened to have a CA and recover. That comes from my skeptical and untrusting nature!

After laying out the definitions and different facets of REDs and EVAs, they propose future directions in research on subjects such as terminal paradoxical lucidity, and trying to shed light on the underlying neurological mechanisms (if neurology alone can account for these events). They also suggest taking the positive elements of REDs, the transformative aspects and finding a way of generalizing this to helping terminally ill patients cope with end of life.

They end with this neutral statement followed by a summary and key recommendations. While neutral, it most definitely points to the possibility of “other dimensions” that were mentioned on the Instagram post yesterday:

“Finally, we suggest that although systematic studies have not been able to absolutely prove the reality or meaning of patients’ experiences and claims of awareness in relation to death, it has been impossible to disclaim them either. Clearly, the recalled experience surrounding death now merits further genuine investigation without prejudice.”

Overall this is a very useful paper, and will help us in terms of understanding and interpreting future research work published in this field. It is interesting that the “Straw man” paper came out almost exactly the same day…coincidence? The swivel-eyed in me is tempted to think not!

Finally, I do have one big concern with this consensus statement, and I will seek clarification on this. In the 6 criteria that they lay down that must be met to be defined as a RED, they only seem to allow for positive experiences. We know that about 25% of experiences are negative…are they discounting them despite them occurring under similar conditions and including other core elements? If this is the case, I would be very concerned, since it is precisely this kind of “only see the good” thinking that has got us into such a pickle with Putin and Xi. There are monsters. Not everyone is good. There is a heaven, but according to a significant number of RED reports, there may also be a hell, or destruction. Just a thought. Maybe given this emphasis, and their potential exclusion of negative experiences, they should call them PREDs…Positive Recalled Experiences of Death, and how about using BREDs for the others…bad recalled experiences of death. Of course I am being facetious, but the subject is very serious in reality and should be covered fully and without a preference for only the nice stuff.

Anyway, that is my first reaction. I will be reading it again over the weekend, and look forward to your comments on this “line in the sand” that these thought leaders on the subject of NDEs REDs have drawn.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before we do see EVA in RED, and in the AWARE II study.

Burning a Straw Man

I have been hearing a lot of noise about a paper which appeared this week:

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnagi.2022.813531/full

Let’s not waste too much time on discussing the argument it sets up, since we would be “attacking a straw man”. My intent in this post is to show why it precisely fits the definition of a straw man:

A straw man is a form of  argument and an informal fallacy of having the impression of refuting an argument, whereas the real subject of the argument was not addressed or refuted, but instead replaced with a false one.[1] One who engages in this fallacy is said to be “attacking a straw man”. (wikepedia)

Firstly, is this paper trying to refute the argument that NDEs are evidence that the consciousness is able to persist beyond brain death – i.e. independent of brain activity? Yes, absolutely, the fact they are talking about NDEs is obvious in the opening sentence:

“The neurophysiological footprint of brain activity after cardiac arrest and during near-death experience (NDE) is not well understood.”

Here we have a clue as to the straw man nature of this research. They are blurring the definition of NDE to suit their desired attempt to refute what NDEs represent. This is where Parnia may be on to something by moving away from the term NDE and creating a number of different terms to describe the different and unique types of experience that are associated with having a CA and being revived after CPR (or spontaneously).  I will create a separate post on that this weekend. I was a bit skeptical of why he was doing this, but having seen this paper under discussion here, I now “get it”. This straw man research has crystallized the need for clarity in distinguishing what we understand NDEs are from what sceptics would try to define NDEs as. By defining what we understand NDEs to be- remembered experiences that happened while a patient was clinically dead as defined by no ECG or EEG signal, as REDs – or recalled experiences of death, it is moving them away from this potential grey zone. More on that in my next post, and other implications from the joint statement paper.

Back to the paper at hand. The authors are playing a sleight of hand here by using the term NDE. They are basically inferring that any conscious activity, indeed, any measurable brain activity close to the time of death is now an NDE. These are the legs of the straw man against which we may be tempted to argue, and get caught up in discussions on alpha gamma and theta waves etc. That is the goal of a straw man…to get us distracted in detail that is irrelevant.

The body of the straw man is that the brain activity described in enormous detail in this paper only occurred for 30 seconds after the heart stopped. However, as we know from our years of discussing various NDEs, and from the AWARE I NDE, these experiences occur for periods of time long after the 30s. Yes, while it is theoretically possible to believe that the life review and tunnel are a result of these final firings of the brain, the verified recollections reported from thousands, if not tens of thousands of documented experiences where patients witnessed observable events that occurred many minutes after their heart had stopped, cannot be accounted for by this research. This is the heart of the straw man…it does not address the NDEs that we talk about…which Parnia now refers to as REDs.

The head of the straw man is that the patient under discussion never recovered to describe any experience. There was no reported NDE RED with which the EEG data could be correlated, so the whole paper is really just a moot point and most definitely does not address the central argument that “believers” make – NDEs – REDs are a result of the consciousness persisting after the brain has become inactive/dead and incapable of physically “producing” consciousness which provides strong evidence for the philosophy of metaphysical dualism, out of which most religious/spiritual belief systems come.

It is a Straw Man…burn baby, burn!

Publication alert!

My turn to tease! Unfortunately it seems that the publication of AWARE II is not as imminent as hoped. From todays Instagram feed (btw I am Orson if you didn’t already know):

However, if they keep adding interesting stuff to their Instagram account, then maybe we won’t need to wait that long till we get something really meaty. There is obviously more than a hint in this reply that they may not have the answers we are hoping for yet though.

They’re teasing us

Given the Parnia lab seems to be trailing tidbits of its forthcoming publication of the AWARE II study on Instagram, I think it’s probably worth having a post for each teaser that contains particularly interesting content…and yesterday’s was a doozy (click pic for link).

Key quote:

We found that while the majority of the time,  the EEG data was “flatlined”, incredibly, normal or near-normal waves emerged even after 40-60 minutes of CPR. Notably, the incidence of “normal” EEG rhythms was correlated with greater probability of successfully re-starting the heart.

In summary, this expands on the findings of the AHA poster from 2019:

In particular it provides grist for the materialist mill in providing the best evidence yet that the brain is capable of conscious activity during CPR. We have discussed this many times here and while it does give ammo to the materialists, there are two things to consider that give me hope subsequent announcements will be more favourable to the cause of “believers”:

1. Previous reports of CPRIC (CPR induced consciousness) suggest that the recollections of the patients are very different in character from NDE reports. They are often traumatic and confused in nature. Parnia himself points this out in his Bigelow runner’s up prize winning essay. He also makes his position on this subject very clear…brain activity resulting from CPR does not account for NDEs. Why would he say this without concrete evidence? This brings me to my second point.

2. Two years ago I pestered the lab for clarification on this issue. I specifically asked them if they were able to correlate the NDE reports from the first AHA poster with the data from EEG and oximetry readings to determine whether these NDE reports were associated with levels capable of producing consciousness. 2 years of deafening silence. I hope very much we will get our answer to this question in the paper…it would seem to me that Parnia knows the answer or he would be less assertive in his position.

Keep coming back here for key updates and discussion. Looks like the next few weeks are going to be busy…let’s hope it doesn’t end in an anti-climax and the paper is a complete nothing-burger.

“This time next year Rodney”

We come to that time of the year again when we look back at the past year and rue the lack of new data, and look forward hoping that this year will be different. We are like the characters in the 1980s UK hit TV show, Only Fools and Horses featuring Del Boy and Rodney Trotter, who lived in a state apartment in a poor part of London and were always coming up with schemes to make themselves rich, but never succeeding. “This time next year Rodney,” Del boy would say to his younger brother, “we’ll be millionaires.” It was either this analogy I was going to use, or Groundhog Day…both fit the feeling I have about the AWARE II study despite the promising Tweet made just after New Years which stated:

“We hope to see you in 2022 as we ring in the New Year with exciting news, including updates on the AWARE II study!

This has been followed more recently by some Tweets on the study that looks into paradoxical terminal lucidity in patients with Dementia. I currently work in Dementia as a medical scientist for a Biotech with “skin in the game” so to speak. Also, I watched my father die from Dementia, so I am very interested in this study. I have spoken about this in previous posts, so won’t say any more for now.

On the promise of “updates on the AWARE II study” I am now very cautious about raising my hopes too much having experienced so much disappointment over the years. My expectations range from a statement saying they have more hospitals recruiting patients, to a paper, or conference abstract that provides more details on the different auditory experiences they reported at AHA 2019. The latter has the potential to be extremely important, although I doubt the media or wider scientific community will regard it in such a light. It is clear that Parnia does not believe that CPRIC (CPR induced consciousness) or blood flow from CPR could produce NDEs. I was not certain of this until I read the essay that he submitted to the Bigelow competition (more on that in a moment). It is possible that the update from the AWARE II study includes data from EEG and ECG matched against one or more of the reported auditory OBEs. This could be the smoking gun. Like I said, the scientific community may not accept it as such without a lot of persuasion.

The Tweet trailing “exciting news” was not just confined to the AWARE II study though. It is possible that data may be presented from AWARE III, the study looking into OBEs reported during hypothermic surgery. They recruited their first patient in August 2020, and it is possible that they have been recruiting a number each month, and if that were the case, I would fully expect to have a hit by now.

Who knows, but watch this space, or sign up directly to their Twitter feed.

On another note, I was able to read Sam Parnia’s essay over the Christmas holidays. It was a robust defense of the argument supporting NDEs and as well as going over a lot of old ground, I feel he made a lot more of the hit from AWARE I than he previously has, specifically stating that this is the only time in a clinical study that recollections from an NDE have been corroborated by attending HCPs AND that these recollections were time stamped to prove that they were from a time that the patient had no heartbeat. In some ways this made me feel a little concerned that this would be his “forever hit”, and that from his standpoint no more evidence is needed. From a proof standpoint, I somewhat agree, but then I would, it’s the wider scientific community that demands more.

He also provided a very good argument, supported by data, that CPR could not produce the lucid kind of experiences described in NDEs as CPR does not produce sufficient blood flow, and the EEG patterns associated with CPR do not correspond to consciousness. As others have noted in previous discussions, this puts to bed any doubts around CPR causing the auditory OBEs in AWARE II despite this going against the line that he put in his AHA abstract, so I look forward to any publication that goes into this further. He also discussed CPRIC which is a completely different phenomenon, and is when the patient achieves consciousness during CPR, normally as a result of brief restoration of heart beat. This kind of event is always associated with confusion and distress, and completely different from the kind of recollections that feature in an NDE.

Anyway, I will once again draw deep on my reserves of hope that we will learn of that illusive hit before too long. To me it is inevitable, and judging by the Tweets, the Parnia team also believe it is inevitable, otherwise why would they be so assertive in claiming that CA survivors can recall details from the time they were beyond the threshold of death?

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