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AWARE II preprint analysis

So having had time to look through the preprint of the AWARE II paper, I will only add comments on new information that wasn’t present in the talk at AHA, and it basically boils down to two things – the reports of external awareness – in particular the visual report, and the EEG data.

On the report of visual awareness, this is from the paper:

“…one describing “hands being on him” and voices shouting. Another, “heard people talking…” and drugs given but without specifics. The same person (1/28 [3.5%]) perceived visual awareness of doctors. He felt like he was further away but could see what was going on, including hearing/seeing doctors getting organized and a doctor with a “surgical hat and blue scrubs”. He said he “could feel someone rubbing the bony bit” on his chest. During stage 3, no further information for independent corroboration was provided.”

When you look at this case, I would say this is much more likely to be CIPRIC than a genuine OBE. Not what I would like to say, but nonetheless feels true given he reports feeling procedures. It is possible he was “half-in half-out” but no evidence to support this UNLESS they also collected EEG and it was flat during the episode he describes…which brings me on to the EEG data. I refer specifically to this paragraph:

“EEG data were obtained from n=85 subjects, but due to electrical interference, electrode malfunction, motion artifact data, only 53 had interpretable EEG data. Thus, of 851 total EEG images captured, 466(55%) were interpretable (Figure 1.A). Of these 53, n=49 also had rSO 2 with mean SD rSO 2 43.49, consistent with significant ischemia (normal~70%). Those not-interviewed had a similar rSO 2 to those interviewed. Among the 28 interviewed survivors, mean rSO 2 was similar between those with and without memories. Although, absence of cortical brain activity (suppressed EEG) was a dominant finding (47% of data/images), seizure-like (epileptiform) activity also emerged (5%) (Figure 1.B). Importantly, near-normal/physiological EEG consistent with consciousness also emerged: delta, theta activity in 22% and 12% respectively (up to CPR 60 minutes), alpha 6% of data/images (up to CPR 35 minutes) and beta 1% (Figure 1.B). Near-normal EEG patterns were observed throughout CPR, however, their relative frequency declined over time, especially after 50 minutes of CPR. In parallel, there was a relative increase in suppressed (absent) EEG. Seizure-like activity occurred after 10mins of CPR but remained steady (~12-24% of all EEG recordings) throughout (Figure 1.B). Modeling the likelihood of the emergence of the EEG patterns, we identified a significant difference in the predicted probability of the emergence of the three categories of EEG (normal-near normal, seizure like activity, absence) with prolonged CPR duration (p<0.001) (Figure 1.C)2”

Firstly, the Parnia lab are to be congratulated on what is a truly innovative and ground-breaking piece of research. As they state in the discussion, this is the first time that real-time EEG data has been collected in a prospective study during CPR, and given the fact that near normal EEG patterns were observed in some patients throughout CPR, it raises the possibility that NDEs could be explained by brain activity. However, without further detail, and specifically the tables, I am going to guess that it is quite unlikely given that one of the 6 patients who had “transcendental” experiences has EEG data given that less than 10% of all subjects had interpretable EEG (I am assuming the percentages quoted in the above paragraph are for the whole EEG population, not just those who were interviewed…this should be changed by the editor before final publication with numbers as well as percentages). Now if one of the 6 did have interpretable EEG, then it could prove positive for either camp, but would favour the dualists. There are two scenarios if there was interpretable EEG data for any of the 6:

  1. The EEG data was inconsistent with conscious activity. This would be slightly positive for dualists…but only slightly without time stamping of validated external recollections…which we already know don’t exist.
  2. The EEG data was consistent with the potential for conscious activity. This would be slightly supportive or the materialists, but for the same reason as it would not be conclusive in scenario one it would not be conclusive here.

Ultimately, even when we do see the tables, I am pretty certain we will not be able to draw any definitive conclusions about the nature of consciousness, or of the cause of NDEs from AWARE II. Most, if not all of the EEG data, is for people who didn’t report an NDE.

Parnia points to his study in patients undergoing hypothermic circulatory arrest as maybe unlocking the puzzle. My next post will be about this, and why I am concerned that this may be a false hope, and if he did stop collecting data for AWARE II in March 2020, then he may come to regret it.

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