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

Archive for the tag “NDE Near Death Experience”

EEG surges near death prove NDEs are generated by the brain, and oily bubbles

I decided to write a very brief post on this study because it keeps popping up in the comments and people haven’t seen previous responses to it.

In summary 4 people in commas had life support turned off. While their ECG was still active, but transitioning to flatline (i.e. pre-CA), two of them had EEG activity of a level and kind that is observed in consciousness (gamma waves). Since the patients never recovered, we don’t know whether they experienced awareness, or NDEs or anything. As the authors state in their discussion:

“Although the marked activation of the posterior hot zone in the dying brain is suggestive of elevated conscious processing in these patients, it does not demonstrate it.”

(There is one huge issue that they do not raise in this paper. They are saying to the family of the patients that the brain is damaged beyond repair and would not recover, and at the same time suggesting that it might have produced conscious awareness just prior to CA).

We have known now for a while that in rats there can be a burst of brain activity for about 30 seconds after CA. This study does not repeat that in humans, but shows activity once the life support is turned off and the heart is starting to pack in. In addition, if there is CPR, AWARE II has shown that EEG activity, including gamma waves can occur up to one hour later. To date no data has been presented or published that associates these bursts of EEG with conscious awareness. Therefore these studies do not prove that NDEs are generated by the brain. So what’s with the oily bubbles?

Well, I am so tired of answering question’s that arise from conflation of the two independent facts:

gamma waves are associated with consciousness + some patients have gamma waves in their EEG near (or after) death = NDEs are due to this activity,

I thought I would do something completely different and describe a conflation from the origin of life puzzle that is one of the easier ones to understand.

The conflation is this:

Under certain conditions lipids can come together and form spherical bilayers (oily bubbles) spontaneously in water + Cell membranes (or walls in plants) consist of lipid bilayers = proteins and DNA developed within spontaneously formed oily bubbles. Later on the DNA and proteins produced a cell membrane.

This is one of dozens of heinous conflations that appear in otherwise credible scientific journals to try to brush the origin of life conundrum under the rug. It is a chicken and egg question (not the biggest, which is DNA and proteins, but one of a number).

The question is this: which came first, the cell membrane that allows the cellular equipment to function, or the cellular equipment that codes for and builds the cell membrane.

The problem is this: for any primordial (pre-life, pre-evolution) system to develop, the nascent chemical systems would need to develop in enclosed structures otherwise they would just wonder off in whatever puddle they started developing in. Oily bubbles were proposed as the answer to this problem, and actually taken seriously, and still cited as a possible solution, but it is a complete nonsense for the following reasons:

1.Oily bubbles are nothing like cell membranes. Yes, cell membranes contain lipid bilayers, but these are punctured by numerous other chemical structures that allow the transport of specific chemicals in and out of the cell. Without the removal of waste or the addition of key components from outside, the machinery would die very quickly.

2. Ignoring 1, let’s say that the a system did develop, then why would it create a cell membrane? Evolution is a product of necessity, but there is an oily bubble doing the job, so you don’t need a membrane.

3.The code for a typical cell membrane is thousands of codons long, and it is assembled by specific proteins. To suggest that the code for a cell membrane, and the associated proteins spontaneously appeared in a nascent system is absurd, so no one suggests it. Moreover it is not something that could be conceived of emerging via a stepwise process. So materialist scientists who mention this in their theories hope no one notices that the oily bubble idea is totally absurd…which most people are happy to do as the moment they understand that life could not have developed by natural processes, they start to sense the presence of a rather large grey creature with a trunk in the room, or the lab. Hence my book DNA: the Elephant in the lab.

So Oily bubbles do not answer the origin of the cell membrane question, just as (currently) the reports of EEG signals in patients near death do not answer the NDE question. However, if the AWARE study shows that EEG is associated with NDE, then it is no longer conflation. It is still not proof that NDEs are the result of brain activity, but the association would strengthen the theory that they are. That is much more likely to happen than anyone squaring the oily bubble circle…or sphere.

Finally, you might be a bit peeved with me writing this, well to be honest I have been itching to write about this for a while, and the repeated raising of this conflation gave me the excuse I needed, and in truth the two are related. NDEs point to a realm beyond this life which, according to countless NDE reports, includes the presence of a Being Of Light, or God. Understanding the Origin of Life issue also points to the existence of an intelligent creator, aka God.

Not Near-Death NDEs

Incidence of near-death experiences in patients surviving a prolonged critical illness and their long-term impact: a prospective observational study

This study was recently published in the journal called critical care. Here is a summary of the key methodological details and findings:

  • Prospective study designed to assess the incidence and patient characteristics of NDEs during stays in the ICU.
  • Pts who had ICU stays >7 days were interviewed within 7 days, 1 month and 1 yr following discharge from the ICU.
  • 126 patients were included with 19 (15%) reporting NDEs (score of ≥7 on the Greyson scale).
  • Cognitive and spiritual factors outweighed medical parameters as predictors of the emergence of NDE.

My comments on this study:

What immediately makes it interesting is that these were patients who were in the ICU, NOT the ER. These patients were not in CA if they reported an NDE, hence the name of this post. Yet 15% of patients who stayed in the ICU had an NDE. These would not be classified as REDs using the criteria published last year, and yet if they are authentic NDEs, which the Greyson scoring suggest they were, then they occurred in a situation where the patients may have died without the intense medical interventions that were being applied in the ICU. This raises questions about the mechanisms of triggering an NDE, as well as the authenticity of them…the latter is perhaps what the authors are hinting at. This is what the authors say about NDE induction:

“Patients in ICU may face potentially physical stressors, such as inflammation, high catecholamine levels, independently of the primary organ failure triggering ICU admission [4]. These are all potential inducers of NDE [5]. Next to these (neuro)physiological factors, some cognitive processes have also been proposed to trigger NDE, such as the tendency for dissociation.”

As for the key findings that the authors highlight, much of it comes from this finding:

“…DES [a questionnaire that assessed the presence of dissociative states] and the WHOQOLSRPB [a WHO questionnaire that assesses a propensity to religious or spiritual beliefs] as the strongest predictors for the emergence of NDE…”

In the discussion they flesh out their thinking on these findings:

“a higher frequency of dissociative symptoms and a greater spiritual and personal well-being were the strongest predictors for the recall of NDE using multivariate analysis (Fig. 1). It is then reasonable to hypothesize that a propensity to dissociative states and to spiritual beliefs and practices make people more likely to report NDEs when exposed to certain physiological conditions.”

My big issue with this conclusion is that all the data relating to dissociative states and religious propensity was gathered after the ICU stay, and therefore after any potential NDE. The question must therefore be asked as to whether or not this propensity to dissociative states and to spiritual beliefs and practices was pre-existing or heightened or even induced by the NDE. It is hard to see how the questionnaires would explicitly be able to identify these traits as underlying and pre-existing, so the hypothesis is based on somewhat shaky ground. Moreover, even if the hypothesis is correct, it says nothing about the validity of NDEs being a manifestation of the dualist relationship of human consciousness with the brain. I state in my book on NDEs that it is possible, even likely, that some people are more prone to being spiritual, and that there are genetic links to this. This could mean that some people are physiologically more prone to NDEs…their consciousness may be less “tightly tethered” to their brains, for want of a better expression.

I do give credit to the authors here for not drawing any conclusions that do not belong outside of the parameters of the area of study, and to the potential nature of NDEs, although they do give a nod to some of the previous attempts to explain NDEs through neurological processes. Despite the latter, I don’t really know where the authors stand on the issue, and that is a very good thing because it suggests that their bias didn’t influence their research.

Returning to their discussions, the problem associated with only having data post ICU stay also applies to one of the key overall conclusions of the study, specifically that NDEs do not alter quality of life. Due to the small sample size, and the fact that we do not have QOL data from before the ICU stay, it is not really possible to say with certainty that NDEs have any effect on QOL. Moreover, the type of questionnaire used focuses on physical outcomes, and since these people all suffered conditions that required intensive care, and NDEs are largely understood in a spiritual context, then it would be highly unlikely that there would be much difference in physical outcomes. In fact, I think I once heard that people who have had NDEs were more likely to die in subsequent years than those who hadn’t, but I can’t remember the source.

My biggest gripe with this publication is that details from the NDE interviews are not revealed. There were 19 in total, it is therefore highly likely if ICU NDEs followed similar patterns to CA-induced NDEs that there would 2-4 OBEs. This is not mentioned or discussed, nor are the breakdowns of the Greyson scores. Given that this is the first study to prospectively look at NDEs in an ICU, I feel this was a bad omission since they could have determined if there might have been differences between the NDEs from ICU and CA. Also, were they hiding something? Were they discouraged or prohibited from sharing “subjective” OBEs by the reviewers?

Other than this, the study was well conducted and the findings neutral. Most of all, for us they highlight the fact that NDEs occur in instances beyond just cardiac arrest, and that they may be much more common as a result. The downside of this is that in the absence of scientifically validated OBEs, these types of NDE are much more open to mundane physiological explanations touted by neurologists.

UNCOOL (updated on 29th January)

This post is a doozy, you will need to get your noodle into high gear as we will be delving into 4 publications on or related to the subject of NDEs during HCA (hypothermic circulatory arrest). Before we start, can I ask you a small favour. This blog costs money to create, and time to write. If you have been coming here for a while and enjoy reading what I write, then I would be grateful if you “bought me a coffee” (if you are rich, you can buy more than 1!). This site is trustworthy and used by media creators around the world to get appreciation for creators like me. You will need a credit card, provide the number, expiry, CVV number AND your zip code – the details are not passed on to me or held on the Buymeacoffee site (BTW it’s easy to forget the ZIP code which tripped me up when I tried it out for the first time today, you need to scroll across the details box). If I get lots of support it may motivate me to write more!

My Buy Me a Coffee page (yes, my real name is Orson…Ben Williams is a character in one of my novels)

Now to the blog. So this is not a great news blog for those longing for that illusive scientifically verified OBE, and may be bad news for Parnia’s HCA study, but there is a caveat with that.

So to the first paper (big shout out to Constiproute for alerting me to this one – how did I miss it!!):

Does Hypothermic Circulatory Arrest for Aortic Surgery Trigger Near-Death Experience? Incidence of Near-Death Experiences after Aortic Surgeries Performed under Hypothermic Circulatory Arrest

Ref: Manduit et al; Aorta (Stamford). 2021 Apr; 9(2):76-82. doi: 10.1055/s-0041-1725091

Brief summary of design, methods and results:

Design: It was a prospective study looking at consecutive patients who underwent thoracic aortic surgery between July 2018 and September 2019. Procedures without HCA were included to constitute a control group. The primary outcome was the incidence of NDE assessed with the Greyson NDE scale during the immediate postoperative course, via a standardized interview.

Results: None of the patients reported any recollection from their period of unconsciousness. There was no NDE experiencer in the study cohort.

This makes AWARE II look like a resounding success! The authors sound slightly bitter in their summary of the results, as far is it possible to sound bitter in a clinical study publication.

Firstly let’s get into the weeds. This is a well designed prospective controlled study which makes it a very credible study.

The procedure basically requires cooling the body to 21-28oC by using a bypass technique that cools the blood, and once this temperature is achieved circulation is halted. At this temp many of the metabolic processes that occur within cells are slowed to the extent that damage will not occur, particular to brain tissue. However, after 30 minutes things may get more dangerous and another technique is initiated that restores flow of fluid to the brain. Here are the numbers recruited.:

Overall ( n  = 101)HCA group ( n  = 67)Control group ( n  = 34)

All patients survived, and while it is not stated (something the editors or reviewers should have picked up) I assume that all were interviewed. Given data from previous NDE studies looking at CA survivors, you would expect about 6 reports of NDEs from the HCA group given that they were in circulatory arrest. However there were none.

In the lengthy discussion section a number of factors were listed as potential confounders which might have caused this lack of NDEs. Here they are verbatim:

  • The hypnotic agents and analgesics used during general anesthesia may induce retrograde amnesia, or merely prevent NDE, although some NDE during anesthesia have previously been described. 
  • The potential influence of modified neurotransmitter release and systemic inflammatory response induced by the CPB, along with the varying degrees of ischemia/reperfusion during aortic surgery, should also be taken into consideration. 
  • The duration of unconsciousness in our study (14.4 hours on average), inherent to the prolonged general anesthesia, might prevent the patient from remembering NDE events. Furthermore, the time between awakening from anesthesia and the patient’s interviews might have been too long.
  • The number of patients included in our study might also be too limited to evidence NDE, although the incidence rates reported among cardiac arrest survivors suggest that such cohort size should be adequate.
  • The level of hypothermia and the optional use of adjunctive cerebral perfusion during circulatory arrest might also play a crucial part. 

The first 4 are self explanatory. The issue of being under sedation prior to CA is something that I think is potentially relevant. Does the consiousness need to be consious when CA occurs for an NDE to occur? Not convinced personally since I can recall of NDEs that have been reported when patients were under anesthesia, had a CA during a procedure and consiousness started at that point with the NDE ensuing. Moreover we have the cases from the HCA study in Montreal (the original COOL study) led by Mario Beauregard. I will return to that in a moment.

It is the fifth point that interests me and two papers that are cited in the section of the discussion that delves into this.

Electroencephalography During Hemiarch Replacement With Moderate Hypothermic Circulatory Arrest by Keenan et al in 2016


Deep hypothermic circulatory arrest: I. Effects of cooling on electroencephalogram and evoked potentials by Stecker et al in 2001

To summarize the key points, with the application of cerebral perfusion (used in both studies), the EEG does not in general become silent until the body has reached a temperature of 16oC. Below about 24oC it goes into burst suppression, during which consiousness is not possible. This is the status usually encountered during anesthesia.

In summary there are 3 states and outcomes to consider:

  1. Temp >16oC no circulation (artificial or natural) = isoelectric EEG or clinical brain death in under a minute.
  2. Temp >16oC with some kind of circulation, either natural or artificial = EEG activity of some kind.
  3. Temp <16oC with or without circulation = no EEG activity and clinical brain death.

Now I will discuss the Beauregard study from Montreal. The details were published in a journal as a letter which does not require peer review. It was more hypothesis generating than anything, and was supposed to be the launch pad for a larger scale prospective study, but it never happened. Anyway, here is a link to the letter:

Conscious mental activity during a deep hypothermic cardiocirculatory arrest? Beauregard et al 2011

In summary, it was a retrospective study looking at cases between 2005-2010 in which 33 patients underwent DHCA ( deep hypothermnic circulatory arrest), and were interviewed afterwards. 3 reported consious recollections, and one had an OBE, the details of which were later confirmed to be accurate. Given it was retrospective and in such a small cohort, the evidence is a little sketchy (unless you add it to the mountain of other evidence), however this is what has inspired further study. So there is one huge question to ask, why did Beauregard’s study have NDEs and Manduit’s not?

It is noteworthy that when looking at Keenan’s paper, the methods for HCA appeared to change around 2010-2013, with cooling often going to 21-28oC, whereas during DHCA conducted prior to 2010, it appears the body may have been cooled to 16oC or lower.

This may be the key difference between Beauregard’s (recruited 2005-2010) study and Manduit’s (recruited 2018-2019). However, given that in Manduit’s study only 31% of patients had ancilliary cerebral perfusion, therefore 69% would have had isolectric EEG (although they did not measure this), I am not sure this would make any difference in terms of potential for NDEs.

However, this is potentially hypothesis generating regarding the interation between consiousness and the brain in a dualist understanding of our existence, and which I will delve into during the discussion or in another post because I think this is enough for now.

Finally, this has implications for Parnia’s HCA study. Is he using DHCA cooling to 16oC, or MHCA (moderate HCA) and only going to 21-28oC. Is there cerebral perfusion? The answers could effect the outcome.

Wow, my brain is overheating – definitely not 16 or even 21-28oC…it is smoking!

Please review the papers yourselves and see if I am adding 2 and 2 and getting 762, but I think I may be right on this.

Finally, surely after that, you want to buy me a coffee

My Buy Me a Coffee page (yes, my real name is Orson…Ben Williams is a character in one of my novels)

Free Summer Vacation Reading

The Parnia lab has gone very very quiet. I am hoping this is the calm before the fall storm. In the meantime I have a little “gift” of free reading for you.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was recently laid off due to an Alzheimer’s drug I was working on not being approved by the EMA. I have spent the past two months doing endless interviews and presentations to prospective employers, and I have finally secured a new position which starts at the beginning of October. I now have 2 months to do as I wish…a lovely feeling.

I have it in mind to complete the final draft of a novel set in the world of NDEs and OBEs that I have been picking up and putting back down, with various development editors adding their thoughts along the way, for well over 2 decades now. But it is hard work…really hard work, and I don’t want to waste my time writing something that no one will read when I could spend the next two months catching up on DIY projects, watching sport on the TV, and taking it easy. So I am in need of some encouragement, but only if it is genuine.

Below is the first very brief chapter of this draft. The first 3 chapters, about 30 pages, are in the downloadable PDF below that. If I get sufficient, genuine, positive feedback from people on this site then I will devote the next 2 months to completing this draft of part 1 and sending off to a copy editor to polish up before I self-publish later this year. If I am met with a community-wide “meh”…I will sulk…but then get over it pretty quick and do something else. I do not want people to be nice to make me feel good, I want honest feedback from the type of people who are most likely to find this kind of story appealing, and lets face it, if you guys don’t want to read it, then no one else will!

So, read the below, and if you are intrigued, download the PDF containing chaps 1-3 by hitting the download button and post the answer to the following question in the comments section: “Would you pay $5 for part 1 in this planned series of books?”

If you have some specific feedback, other than typos which a copy editor will find, and you don’t wish to post it, then send me a private message via the contacting me directly tab above. If you hate it, or just think its blah, you don’t need to say anything, but only post something positive if you would actually part with your hard earned money to find out what happens to Mark, Helen and…Hammon

Many thousands of years ago.

Hammon could feel the skinsuit start to respond to the presence of his consciousness, but it was slow work integrating with the neural interface. It must have been an earlier model sent out on one of the first wave of exploratory missions; the later models came to life almost instantly.

His eyelids finally opened. The cabin was bathed in a red glow.

“Warning,” the soothing voice declared. “Entering unknown system.”

Hammon could feel the artificial heart pumping faster as the cabin neared optimum temperature. It had probably been hundreds of years since someone had visited the explorer craft for a maintenance check and during that time the cabin would have been kept at deep space temperatures to conserve energy. It would take the body he was inhabiting a few more minutes to warm up and he would be able to move properly.

The instrument panels came to life and the screens lining the walls of the cabin created a seemless 360 view of the outside.

“Warning,” the voice said again. “Ninety percent chance of collision. Use manual override to change course.”

A huge brown and cream striped planet with a vast eye shaped storm on it loomed ahead. Hammon looked at the manual override button. It was within reach. He stared at his right hand, willing it to lift up, a finger moved slightly.

An alarm sounded.

The giant planet hurtled past. Hammon breathed a sigh of relief.

“Warning. Ninety-seven percent chance of collision. Use manual override to change course.”

Dead ahead, still distant, but growing nearer by the second, was his worst possible nightmare…a star…the one place his consciousness could be obliterated. Even if he didn’t crash, and somehow got trapped in its orbit, if he was too close to the star, and without access to a source of energy sufficient to create a quantum space bridge, its gravitational pull could trap his consciousness in this system forever.

He focused all his will on his hand. It slowly raised a centimetre from the arm rest.

He screamed out loud in frustration and cursed. At least the lungs were working.

“Ninety seconds to impact. Use manual override to change course.”

The star grew larger. He knew that the ship would not change course automatically. Many of the exploratory craft they sent out were intended to crash into systems and send back data of the final seconds before impact to provide information on suitability for collonisation.

“Impact in 60 seconds. 59, 58…”

He lifted his hand again. This time he moved it towards the manual override button.

What if they had known this ship was destined to collide with a star? His presence in the palace had become increasingly unwanted by others on the council. His ambitions had caused many to resent him. But surely they wouldn’t obliterate another soul because their pride had been wounded?

“49, 48,..”

He strained, roared again and hit the button.

“Manual override implemented.”

The suit was coming to life, he hastily plotted a new course. He just needed to shift the direction by a few degrees to avoid the star.

“39, 38…”

He finalized and input the instructions then looked at the view ahead. He was veering away from the star.

He breathed out and leaned back in his chair.

The more he thought about it, the more he realized he must have been set up. When he got back, he would make whoever was responsible pay.

“4, 3”

He jerked back up. Out of nowhere a planet covered in patches of green, blue and white burst into view.

“1, 0”


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)

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.

The longer you live, the less likely your soul will survive death: discuss [ideas posted may be included in next version of book]

A 10 min video summarizing what I say in my book. WARNING – those who are sensitive about any reference to Christian teaching, the last two minutes may be worth skipping!

Let me know your thoughts and alternative theories explaining why it is that only 10-20% of elderly adults reports NDEs, whereas 80-90% of kids who die and are resuscitated report NDEs. As a reminder if you read my book, changes in memory function with age do not account for the difference.

I will start with one alternative my wife came up with:

Those who are older, and who come to the boundary, are much more likely to cross the boundary, therefore a much higher proportion of the elderly may in fact have souls that survive death, but we don’t know about it because they don’t come back to tell us.

I know in my previous post others had other ideas…please repeat them here.

Also, any good ideas that either resonate with NDE observations or have supporting evidence, I will probably include in any updates of my book in the future.

Terminal/paradoxical lucidity. Overlap with NDEs?

The change in Brain structure due to Alzheimer’s disease (from John Hopkins)

I was going to write this at some point after Alan put a link to the below Guardian article in the last post discussion, but someone else has asked me to post on it, so here we go.

Guardian article on Terminal Lucidity.

I recently started work in Alzheimer’s for a Biotech that has a program in developing treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). As with all my work over the years in different diseases, I collaborate with leading academics and physicians in the disease area to develop research ideas – our own and theirs; discuss and disseminate latest research information and help facilitate the implementation of improved diagnostics and treatment pathways. I love what I do, whether it is in HIV, which I spent many years working in, or AD, which I have a particular passion for due to watching my father succumb to this hideous disease. The idea that I may be a part of helping deliver the first wave of potentially disease modifying therapies that slow the progress of this monstrous disease is hugely exciting.

Above is a picture of a normal brain and a brain that has been severely damaged due to AD . The brain of someone who dies with AD can weigh as much as 30% less than a normal brain at death. AD destroys the brain through a pathway that is widely understood to involve the deposition of Beta-Amyloid plaques in the neurons of the brain, which then through an immune response causes another protein called Tau, which has structural and metabolic roles in the neuron, to become dissociated with the neuron and eventually form clumps and neuronal death. This is the Amyloid cascade pathway that most scientists believe is the primary mechanism by which AD occurs. The process can start up to 20 years before symptoms appear, and once symptoms appear will usually kill the patient within 6-15 years. It is a terminal disease.

As the disease progresses patients go from experiencing mild cognitive impairment (MCI) which usually involves short term memory issues, to mild dementia which may affect one’s ability to do complex tasks, through to severe or advanced dementia where the patient is normally incapable of the most basic of tasks, becomes completely incontinent, and has lost all memory function or ability to speak. They are barely conscious as we understand consciousness. The final stage is death when the part of the brain that controls vital functions such as metabolism or heart rate etc becomes affected. Often dementia patients will die of chest infections as they lose their cough reflex and they literally drown in the fluid accumulating in their lungs. Often they will have pneumonia on their death certificates, but ultimately it is AD that killed them. In the UK it is now acknowledged as the biggest killer (over 20% of “with COVID” deaths are dementia patients). Suffice to say, at this stage the brain should not be functionally capable of lucidity.

Terminal, or paradoxical lucidity, is the phenomenon in which patients who have advanced AD and who have been in a state of cognitive non existence for months suddenly appear completely lucid or “their old selves again”. This usually occurs shortly before their deaths. It is not unique to AD patients, but from a scientific and philosophical perspective it is this group of patients that are most interesting and where those who have an interest in NDEs become excited.

Ultimately, terminal or paradoxical lucidity is not understood from a scientific perspective. A brain that has lost so much of its physical structure that the patient long ago lost cognitive function, and can no longer perform basic physiological functions like bladder control, should not be capable of “producing” high level conscious activity. It is a paradox, hence the alternative nomenclature. The overlap with NDEs, and hence the reason that Sam Parnia has become involved in this work, is obvious: people who report NDEs are reporting consciousness when the brain is completely incapable of consciousness from a scientific perspective because it is completely inactive.

The justification for research into this area is that maybe by understanding what activity we observe on an EEG during one of these terminal lucidity episodes, we may be able to develop technology that generates sufficient targeted stimulation to cause patients with AD to recover some of their function. There is a precedent for this. Currently available symptomatic treatments of AD, such as Donepezil, which slow the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetyl choline, have been shown to improve cognitive function in some patients with AD, especially when used early. However these drugs do not alter the underlying disease process, they just “make better use of” the undamaged part of the brain; the patient will die at the same point with or without treatment. It is just a brain booster (student doctors have used it in medical exams to enhance their performance!). Arguably, if we can understand the physiological processes that are occurring during terminal lucidity, maybe we can devise technology that creates the same effect. That at least is the materialistic justification for this research.

Non-materialists, or “Nutters”, like me have a different explanation. The long established guest of the brain (the consciousness) has returned and somehow is able sequester the remnants of its dying host to experience and communicate with this realm one last time. It is a “paranormal” or “supernatural” phenomenon.


Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: