The Good, the Bad and the Ugly study
Thanks to Z who has once again done my job and kept a close eye on the literature, and alerted us to this study which was published at the end of last week:
Lapses of the Heart: Frequency and Subjective Salience of Impressions Reported by Patients after Cardiac Arrest
This study is possibly the best designed NDE study I have come across. The site in Vienna started out as a site in the AWARE study, they then extended the protocol beyond AWARE creating their own method for validating…or otherwise, OBEs. It is like they read what we suggested as a well designed experiment, ensuring full blinding until the close of the study, and implemented it:
At an elevated position above one emergency bed (2 m above ground), a notebook PC was fixed facing the ceiling and displaying images selected at random from a pool of 29, switching from the actual to any in the pool every few hours (the number of hours was unpredictable). These images were not disclosed to the public and were not even known to all of us (in particular not to the main interviewer M.L.B.). The presentation history was stored on the PC, and any readout of this history, be it authorized or not, left its trace.“
Well done to this team for getting this right.
They also extended the inclusion criteria for possible experiences, allowing for patients who had Greyson scales <7 to be included in the results if they had recollections around the time of CA. This was smart, and I will come back to this in a moment.
So that’s the good.
The results are disappointing. Yet again a low percentage of NDEs, especially using the Greyson scale:
“Only 5 of 126 (4%) scored at least 7 points, the criterion to pass as NDE in the strict sense. Under the impression that this instrument may not be sensitive enough to detect experiences associated with a transient shortage of brain oxygen during CA, we included 15 more with detailed recollections from a period near to their CA.“
I would say that another 6 (cases E,G,I,K,M and P) had elements of NDEs that we are familiar with, so if you included these 6, you have 11 NDEs from 126 CA survivors, which is very similar to other NDE studies.
There is one OBE, but the subject reported standing next to their body, rather than being above it, and were unable to report the memory of what they saw with any accuracy. There were a couple of other OBE like reports, but were more likely visual distortions etc due to erratic brain activity.
Subject K is highlighted as someone who got them excited:
“She had seen a field with beautiful pink flowers resembling water lilies, all of similar size. In her words, this was the first impression “during waking up” and she added: “It was great that the medical staff was capable to display it for me”. When she saw these flowers, she was sure that she would “return”. For the first (and only) time, we had the suspicion that a patient made reference to one of our hidden images.”
In 2021 when they reviewed the data from the laptop which reported exactly what images were presented at what time, the images that were displayed when she was in CA were nothing like what she described. Some key points here:
- She had a Greyson score of 1, and most importantly
- she did not report an OBE.
I will come back to this, since it central to what makes some of their conclusions and discussions downright:
The paper was authored by Michael L. Berger and Roland Beisteiner. Both are involved in neuroscience research and neurology. While attempting to create a veneer of impartiality they quickly betray their underlying, subjective, predetermined view of OBEs in the introduction:
It may be objected that an experimental approach testing for visual awareness from a point outside the body was futile and misplaced in a serious scientific study, neglecting the generally accepted view that ‘even the most complex psychological processes derive from operations in the brain’ . On the other hand, our certainty about the biological basis of awareness (as about any scientific ‘fact’) is the result of well-controlled experiments and observation, but can never be final and absolute. It has always been the noble privilege of experimental research to put to the test even the most solid dogma, provided the chosen approach was sufficiently well controlled against error and fraud.
In other words they are saying “we know that NDEs and OBEs are caused by neuronal activity, but we are going to do this experiment anyway because this position has not been absolutely and finally proven…although we actually think it has.”
They cite some of the studies we are familiar with, and have debunked here, as evidence for their position. Anyway, given this, you know from the outset they are not going to be objective. It feels very much like they have taken part in this study, are a bit embarrassed about it so put lots of caveats up front, and then completely abandon all objectivity when it comes to their conclusions so their colleagues won’t laugh at them. Shame on them, it is truly fugly.
This is the offensive line referring to subject K:
The image shown during the acute period (CA and post CA, Figure 2) had not the slightest resemblance to the scenery described by the patient. This may be seen as a negative result, but in fact it vindicated the generally accepted view that consciousness depends solely upon brain function.
The hell it does!
Sorry, I know some people don’t like the H word (esepcially Sam Parnia!), but I cannot think of saying this more politely. It is an obscene conflation. To understand why this is the case, you need to read the interview report of subject K:
Due to difficulties in breathing, case K (№ 83), a female 79 years old when the CA occurred, was originally entered as pulmonology patient at the general hospital. The CA happened during her firstnight there. She was successfully resuscitated and transferred to the emergency unit for further treatment. During the interview 83 d later at home, she surprised her husband (who participated) with the revelation that after losing consciousness she had the agreeable impression of a beautiful meadow with wonderful flowers. The flowers were pink and reminded her of water lilies. Was it a dream? No, she prefers the term ‘impression’; she was “pleased that the clinical staff was able to produce it for her”. She likes this memory: “Now I knew: I will come back.” (See Fig. 2) Greyson point: 1
- She did not report an OBE – she did not say she saw herself from above, or beside her body. She did not report seeing a laptop with an image on it.
- She reported a memory of seeing a beautiful meadow. This is such a common theme in NDEs that we see it in the previous case, subject J who also reported a meadow. My father who told me about his NDE said he remembers a beautiful meadow with a figure of white at the end of it. These meadows are not OBEs as we understand them, they are a part of the narrative arc that NDEs or REDs follow…the heavenly realm. These usually occur after any OBE reports from the ER room.
- The wording of her report suggests she is a bit muddled as to what happened to her and this is the only snippet she can remember, and associates it with the doctors. Of note is the fact that many of the subjects knew nothing about NDEs before the report. This is Austria, not the US where the media is very active on this topic.
How on earth did they take this information and come up with the ludicrous statement:
“it vindicated the generally accepted view that consciousness depends solely upon brain function”
CONFLATION – the tool of those who have a weak or non-existent argument. It is something I talk a great deal about in my book on the origin of life DNA:The Elephant in the Lab, (available in all countries) a subject I have academic expertise in. Scientists often conflate different facts to make an argument that isn’t there. I like the Wikipedia description of conflation:
Conflation is the merging of two or more sets of information, texts, ideas or opinions into one, often in error. Conflation is defined as fusing or blending, but is often misunderstood as ‘being equal to’ – treating two similar but disparate concepts as the same.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conflation
So what is the conflation here?
The lady reported seeing a meadow during CA[Fact1] + the laptop did not show a picture of a meadow [Fact 2] = consciousness depends solely upon brain function
It is a conflation because the lady’s report of an image and the fact the laptop didn’t show that image are completely and totally unrelated and not even associated. She didn’t see the laptop…so what? She didn’t report an OBE. The laptop image is irrelevant.
This is monstrous, and their outrageous bias destroys the credibility of what was otherwise a very well designed and conducted study, that if interpreted objectively supports data from other studies. Of course, that won’t stop some materialists leaping on this and saying it is proof that the brain produces NDEs because these neurologists have said it does.
A part of me wonders about the backstory here. Imagine that the team hear that a lady has reported an image (an incorrect assumption from my understanding and explanation from above – she reported a memory), and that this gossip spreads to the wider hospital taking on the form of a report from an OBE. In the time between the interview and revealing of images actually displayed, there may have been a cohort of NDE believers that started to believe, and maybe even claim that they had proven an OBE. The materialists may have momentarily been on the back foot, but when the great reveal comes…BOOM!…no image of flowers. Revenge is a dish best served cold and this paper may be revenge. Any researchers involved in the study who were believers retreated and allowed the materialist neurologists to write it up. Big mistake, as I have shown above. They have embarrassed themselves and their colleagues. Anyway, that is just my author’s imagination running wild…but you can see it happening given the size of egos in academia.
Back to square one. This study proves nothing about OBEs or NDEs, except they are relatively infrequent and all but impossible to scientifically measure.
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