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

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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.


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