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

Archive for the tag “out of body experiences”

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.

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

The Good:

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:

Hidden Images

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 Bad:

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 Ugly:

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’ [11]. 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

Key points:

  • 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.[1] Conflation is defined as fusing or blending, but is often misunderstood as ‘being equal to’ – treating two similar but disparate concepts as the same.

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.

If you enjoyed this post and haven’t “bought me a coffee” yet, then please feel free to show your appreciation:

Answer to Oxygen levels and OBE report question – sort of

The second video on the page in the link below is a recording of Grand Rounds from March 2020, which for some reason, I had missed until recently.

Link to videos from Parnia lab

This video should be compulsory viewing for anyone who is interested in a scientific overview of NDEs, the AWARE studies and the work of the Parnia lab. It really highlights to me how amazing Sam Parnia is in terms of his persistence, his thoroughness, his balance, and his humanity in his approach to this subject. Lot’s of amazing tidbits in this video, including anecdotal accounts of NDEs, some discussion around explanations (or lack of) for consciousness and the philosophy of it all. Remember, this is in the context of Grand Rounds at one of the world’s leading hospitals…not a meeting of your local chapter of IANDS. This is one of the world’s leading scientists on the science of consciousness during “death” speaking to fellow physicians and scientists.

Anyway, the reason I made a post about it is that I get an answer to a question that has been bugging me for ages, namely the link between R02 (blood oxygen in the brain as measured by brain oximetry) and episodes of conscious recollection. I have repeatedly tried to get some comment from Dr Parnia or one of his research colleagues on whether any of the reports of sufficient oxygen levels to potentially experience consciousness were correlated with reports of auditory OBEs or other conscious recollections, or not. In this video, at about 50 mins, one of the attendees at rounds asks a similar question, and Dr Parnia replies that there is currently insufficient data to comment on that. That’s why it is only sort of an answer.

This was a year ago. It’s hard to assess how much impact COVID has had on AWARE II, but if they were going by their original study plan, they would have completed recruitment by now and be writing it up. Hopefully we won’t have too long to wait before we receive a full read out from this study.

Summary of Sam Parnia’s NYAS “What happens when we die” event:

Both the afternoon presentations and the evening panel discussion were livestreamed. Only one talk was excluded and that was a presentation by the “Pig Brain Team” from Yale, presumably because there may have been some proprietary technology discussed. They are available to view at the NYAS site now.

Recording of Livestream 1:

Recording of livestream 2: 

Recording of livestream 3 (evening panel discussion):

There was a lot of very interesting content in the afternoon session which can be bucketed into the following themes:

  1. History of resuscitation medicine
  2. Advances in resuscitation medicine and preserving the brain
  3. The ability to revive consciousness, and to what extent depending on damage to the brain
  4. The transformative nature of NDEs

I am not going to go over much of it since most of what was relevant to this blog has been discussed many times before. However, it is what was absent that was notable to me. There was no mention of the data from AWARE II that was presented over the weekend at the American Heart Association meeting and the subject of previous posts. I understand that the focus of the day was resuscitation medicine, but NDEs were discussed and I found it a bit odd there was no mention of the 2 abstracts at AHA considering this was the first data to come out of Dr Parnia’s landmark study. There was the opportunity to pose questions in the comments section on the livestream, and I did ask about the abstracts but there was insufficient time to answer the questions in the room, let alone on line.

The only tidbit that came up was regarding the sounds generated in the Bluetooth headsets. He described it as “timed sounds” that were delivered through these headsets. Does that mean that sounds were administered intermittently and for a timed but limited number of periods, or that there was a continuous stream of sound with the different kinds of sounds timed, and the time at which they changed recorded? This is very important with respect to the direction of the discussion initiated by Tim we had regarding abstract 287 at the AHA meeting. If the sounds weren’t continuous then the fact that one or more of the 4 “NDErs” heard voices from the room would potentially be less relevant, given the findings from abstract 387 depending on whether there was corresponding EEG and rSO2 data that showed sufficient levels of oxygen to support consciousness. I suspect we aren’t going to learn more at this stage and will have to wait till the data is published, which may be many years from now!

Dr Parnia did refer to a number of new studies that will be starting in the next months and years:

future studies

The one that is of most interest to me is the study looking into consciousness during deep hypothermic arrest. This is effectively COOL II. At this stage they are just performing a pilot study to help inform them on design for a larger landmark study. It looks unlikely we will hear anything from this for a number of years, but this has the potential to produce data more efficiently than AWARE II due to the controlled conditions. Also the prospective study into children’s NDEs will provide interesting insights into the differences that have been previously discussed. This will take a long long time as thankfully children are much less likely to be near death, or actually dead, than adults.

He also presented some data that had been collected from going back over historical interviews from numerous NDEs. This has been done before in various publications in IANDS, but I suspect that his team will apply greater systematic and academic rigor. I wasn’t quite sure where these NDEs were sourced from, but they included a whole host of parameters beyond the simple core elements previously described.

Finally, Dr Parnia did get a bit agitated when describing the impatience of the likes of us! He did look at the camera, and actually said that he was speaking “to the camera”…i.e. some of us. Busted! He was insistent that this research takes a long time, that there are not always enough staff to attend CA events etc. This does not explain why he didn’t refer to the abstracts from the weekend, but we must give him the benefit of the doubt and accept that there are protocols etc that he must follow. He did say that there was more data now, but not that much.

I doubt he does come to this site, but if he does, I hope very much that our enthusiasm/impatience doesn’t in anyway hinder his work, or damage what he is trying to do. If it does in any way, then he must tell me. I would rather dial back on the number of my posts than risk his work. If not, as I suspect is the case given how he is disposed to going on TV and talking about NDEs, then he must recognize that it is only natural for people like ourselves who have a keen interest in his work to be eager to learn as much as we can, and express our frustration at not having all the answers now. As always we wish him the very best in his quest to shed light on the nature of consciousness before and after death.

The evening session was just a panel discussion on what had been presented and what they thought about the various different issues. This was very much focused on the resuscitation medicine side of things and potential ethical implications.

Overall it was enjoyable, but for regulars of this blog, nothing new unfortunately. Now I’m going to bed!

Edited to add the morning after:

While there may have been nothing “new” from the perspective of insights into the recent findings from AWARE II, there were a couple of things that happened in the meetings that have refreshed my perspective.

Firstly there was the testimony of the woman who had received CPR for an hour and the doctors were ready to give up, except one, who took over and carried on. That was 10 years ago and now she is well and living a full productive life due to that doctor and modern techniques. Really rammed home to me what an amazing job the likes of Parnia and his team do.

Secondly was the NDE account described by the ER physician Dr. Tom Aufderheide in the panel session in the evening. That was mind blowing and it reminded me of why I first became hooked on the subject of NDEs. We really don’t NEED the results of AWARE II, we have hundreds, if not thousands, of reliable human testimonies, many of them from health care professionals themselves, that one hundred percent corroborate the validity of the OBE. But more than that they attest to the spiritual nature of humans and our ultimate destiny.

On here, we, I, have become so obsessed with the hit, the smoking gun, and I realised last night that I may have lost my focus on the true wonder of these incredible accounts…they are mind blowing. I don’t need AWARE II. I know from my own experience that there is another reality beyond this life. I have experienced it myself, and through the accounts of others. I know I have a soul inside of me…my brain just sometimes forgets!

Anyway, we will continue to follow developments, but Dr Parnia said to the camera, to us, that we must follow the NYU website for any updates. As much as I respect and admire him, I think I will continue to rely on the great contributors here like Tim, David, Eduardo, Z, Samwise, Chad and others who keep finding things on the web now that might just make it to the NYU website in a years time!


Two steps forward, one back

Samwise, once again, was first to spot this video. Initially there was some confusion as to whether it was recent or from last fall (2018), but Lucas, who watched the whole thing through, observed that he cited the pig study which was published two months ago. This presentation, made at Grand Rounds at NYU, was given in May this year, likely May 8th:

Link to Sam Parnia Grand Rounds May 2019

Now that I have had a chance to watch the entire video there are some very noteworthy points to make, in particular regarding the current status of the AWARE II study and a complete bombshell of a revelation which I will get to a bit later.

Firstly his presentation is a great review of the history and current state of resuscitation medicine, the area of expertise that Dr Parnia focuses most of his research work on. In particularly he spends time discussing the definition of death. Historically it was when the heart had stopped, there was no breathing and the pupils were fixed and dilated. With the advent of CPR in the 1950s this changed to about 5-10 minutes after the heart had stopped and CPR administered without the heart restarting. However, now it is clear that brain cells, the ones that will have the most significant impact on quality of life after resuscitation, could remain viable for many hours after “death” depending on the type of interventions administered from lowering body temperature to injecting magnesium. This is the area of medical research that Dr Parnia is devoting his greatest energy, and is already producing information that will help extend the period which a body remains viable after cardiac arrest. Bravo Dr Parnia, and we condone you for this great work. However, that is not the thing that gets us most excited on this blog/forum. So if you don’t want to learn all about that, fast forward to about 45 mins in when he starts talking about consciousness and death.

In this section he summarizes the findings of the AWARE I study, detailing the case of the man who had consciousness for 5 minutes and whose account was validated by attending Health Care Professionals (but not by the all important cards). That’s old news for us. He then mentions some of the materialist explanations of consciousness in general without getting into the details, and then the money slide:

half Money slide

This, according to Dr Parnia, is the enrollment status of AWARE II from April 2019. My first reaction was surprise that there had been so few new cases of patients surviving to discharge. In the presentation last year in which he showed data from March 2018, 38 patients had survived to discharge, this meant only 6 new cases. Then I started to look at the numbers more closely. Firstly the math is wrong. If you subtract the number who did not have return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) from the total number recruited, you get 171 not 168. Big deal you say, well 171 happens to be the same number that had achieved ROSC on his slide from March 2018. Something fishy is going on. Either a lot more (all) patients are dying before discharge since March 2018, or they need to get a new statistician, or something else. It just doesn’t make any sense.

Then he threw this bombshell in:

whole Money slide

He casually stated that 10% of the patients who had a CA experienced seizure or seizure like EEG activity before ROSC. This is of course a potentially massive finding and contradicts much of what has been said before about NDEs. However, there is one key omission. There is no data on this slide showing numbers of patients who have an NDE, and even more importantly, there is no mention of correlation between reports of NDEs and this EEG activity. It is possibly the biggest teaser he has ever lobbed out to the NDE community.

Finally, Dr Parnia was scheduled to give another Grand rounds presentation focusing solely on consciousness during CA later in May. Maybe he shed more light on this discovery and managed to get the correct numbers on his slide…we won’t know until it is posted on the NYU site…Samwise will no doubt be the first to spot it.

Of course the skeptics will leap on the EEG activity, but until it is matched with reports of NDEs it is meaningless, and even then may be open to subjective interpretation. It is certainly hugely thought provoking, and at the same time frustrating until we learn more.

Time of death…

Partly due to the fact that the last post has nearly 300 comments and so it is good to start a fresh post, and partly because this really disturbing case study raises a question that is very relevant to the whole subject of NDEs, and therefore worth a discussion all of its own, I am posting this and asking the usual contributors and any new ones, to answer the question…”when are you actually dead?” And also what does this highly unusual case say about the relationship between consciousness and physical death, and NDEs in general:

Patient who remained conscious after heart stopped

“The authors conclude that the high level of patient awareness plus oxygen saturation and arterial gas being almost within the normal range throughout the 90 minutes of treatment indicate that peripheral and cerebral blood flow was good and the chest compressions were highly effective. They note that that even though the patient had a poor prognosis, the termination of CPR after 90 minutes raised ethical questions in the team as the individual was still conscious at the time.”

My thoughts, (the horror of the situation aside):

1. In the overwhelming majority of cases when the heart stops, normal “waking” consciousness is immediately lost. This is proven by the immediate and almost total loss of brain activity as measured by EEG. Prior to modern CPR this was historically defined as the point of death. This is why Dr Parnia refers to NDEs as ADEs…actual death experiences. In other words the patient is technically dead. In this case, the EEG probably showed activity associated with normal levels, although this is not mentioned. The patient experienced heart death but not brain death.

2. Death is a process, and as has been mentioned before, none more so than by Parnia himself, it is reversible, and using various methods, the point at which it can be fully reversed without any long term damage can be stretched beyond the several minutes mark. To me true physical death is the point past this. It is the point at which the cells have endured so much damage that the body, and especially the brain, is no longer able to function properly.

3. This case contradicts something that I had always thought was absolutely true…when the heart stops the conscious either shuts down completely, or starts to “detach itself” from the host as we believe is the case with NDEs. However, it appears that if CPR is immediate, and continuous blood flow is kept going, the conscious can somehow “be fooled” into believing that “its host” hasn’t died. What do these cases say about the nature of the connection between body and conscious? And for the skeptic do cases like this provide evidence against NDEs?

Update on status of AWARE II

Just a quick update on the AWARE study. I recently contacted the study team, and they informed me that the study opened and began recruiting on May 1st 2015. I asked for an updated protocol, but they are being a bit cagey about specifics at the moment, which is pretty understandable (if the exact details were known to outsiders it would be easier to discredit any positive results). What info we do have is available on the UK research website link below. The study is anticipated to run for 2 years. As I have stated before, I have concerns about the exclusion criteria not being broad enough, and that potentially we could see a repeat of AWARE I in which they recruited over 2000 Cardiac Arrests, but only a small minority of these were relevant in terms of providing data. In my view, unless they only include all CA survivors who had the crash cart plus LCD monitors in attendance and were able to complete a post event interview, then they should not be included.

Hopefully they have considered this and are proceeding in a more focused way with their new protocol.

AWARE II study

Finally, I know people come here from to time, and are disappointed that new posts are few and far between. As I have explained before, I have a very busy job in research, in addition I write novels in my spare time and this has been the primary focus of my energy of late. I will however attempt to post more thoughts and comments on NDE research as time goes by so sign up for updates so you will be notified when these appear.

As I said before…

So, I have now had a chance to review the entire paper that has been published in Resuscitation, and I hate to say it, but I told you so.

In a previous post I pointed out that it is common practice for key results to be released at conferences, and subsequent publications in journals to be a rehash of these results but with far more detail, and discussion, and that is precisely what has happened with this first full publication from the AWARE study (I say first, as I suspect that there will be more in years to come, especially given the recent sizeable grant given to the team by the Templeton foundation). This data has been presented in summary form in Dr Parnia’s book and at the American Heart Association last year.

Basically there were two NDEs which had visual or auditory recall…in other words, they saw or heard stuff. Only one of these was verifiable and involved a 57 year old man who was able to describe accurately what occurred while the resuscitation team got to work on him, and while he was fully unconscious according to the attending Health Care Professionals (HCPs) and the equipment to which he was connected. This account is as plausible as any from the hundreds, if not thousands of similar accounts that have been published in various books and scholarly journals on this subject over the past few decades.

Importantly, there were no instances where patients were able to confirm their NDE by seeing one of the objects inserted on a shelf specifically for the purpose of verifying an out of body experience (OBE). This is disappointing, but when one reads the full details from the paper, it is hardly surprising. As I discuss in my book, Aware of Aware*, the chances of anyone actually seeing one of these objects and recalling seeing it are extremely small, and now that we are able to see the full results from the study, I have come to realise they are even smaller than I originally suggested. (*available in multiple markets as a paperback or ebook at Amazon).

The numbers:

  • There were 2060 cardiac arrests that could potentially have been included in this study
  • Only 330 of these subjects survived
  • Of these 330, only 140 were eligible for further analysis
  • Of the 140, only 101 completed interviews allowing for determination of the incidence of an NDE type experience
  • Of these only 9 (9%- sound familiar?) reported sufficient core elements of the NDE scale to qualify as an NDE
  • As mentioned before, only 2 reported OBEs, one was unable to follow up due to poor health

Other noteworthy facts from the study:

  • Only 22% of the Cardiac Arrests occurred in areas that had shelves with objects installed
  • Neither of the reported OBEs occurred in these areas

The fact these numbers are very much in line with what has been stated before in other studies is reassuring as it does help to underscore the reproducability of results from NDE studies, and consistency across such measures as incidence of NDE and incidence of OBE. However, does the AWARE study say anything new of significance…answer…No. Does it prove NDEs…as much as I would like to say it does, no, it doesn’t. Does that mean that it never will…time will tell, and I suspect that eventually, due to more cases, and better techniques it will, until then we are left exactly where we were yesterday.

Finally, once again we see the figure of 10% come up. As I have mentioned and discussed in numerous posts prior to this, and I discuss in my book, this number is important and we need to ask the question, why do children experience much higher rates of NDE than adults. For reasons I have mentioned previously, it cannot just be a function of memory

While we are still waiting for hard evidence for the existence of the soul through a verified OBE/NDE, I believe those of us who already believe it, should be more concerned about the possibility that this soul we are born with can actually die, and if so, how do we avoid this outcome?

Will we be aware of the results of AWARE by the end of the week?

I first became aware of the AWARE study back in 2008. I had become very interested in NDEs after briefly dating a girl who had experienced one herself, this in turn revived memories of my father’s NDE which had so intrigued me when he first described it to me. I read dozens of books on the subject and trawled the web for articles relating to it, and after absorbing the multitude of data, I came to the conclusion that it was highly likely that this was a real experience due to the high number of credible witnesses and the consistency across different demographics. But could I say that it was proven to be real? In all honesty, as a scientist, I could not.

As far as I could see the only way to prove that NDEs were real, was to prove that the OBE (Out of Body Experience) was real. This should be a fairly simple experiment, so I dug deeper to see if anyone had attempted this and that is when I came across the AWARE study. Unfortunately, at that stage it was only just beginning so I knew that there would be a long wait for the data to arrive. I decided to use that interval to write the book Aware of Aware, which I first published in January 2012. The premise of this book was a hypothesis based on my understanding of the design of the AWARE study (abstract on horizon website) , and that due to various factors, only one or two people would need to have proven OBEs to validate NDEs and all the associated core elements.

Over the intervening years there have been a number of dates floated around as to when the results would be available. Firstly it was some time in 2012, then it got pushed back to the end of 2012, early 2013. Anyone who has followed this with the kind of interest I have, will have raised their hopes when Dr. Sam Parnia, an emergency physician and the lead investigator of the study, published his book Erasing Death ( The Lazarus Effect in the UK). Alas, whilst the book itself was very interesting, there was only a hint at the results which he stated at that stage had not produced any positives with regard to proving the reality of OBEs. He also mentioned that the initial results from the study would be published formally in the Fall of 2013. The months of September and October were initially mentioned, then in an interview in Der Spiegel in July, Dr. Parnia very specifically stated that it would be November.

Well here we are, November 24th, and still nothing from the great Dr. Parnia (and I am not being facetious, as I know that he has stuck his neck out a long way in a field dominated by materialist thinking). Have there been a couple of last minute confirmed OBEs that made it worth delaying the publication? Or has he been so busy in his day job of saving lives that he hasn’t been able to spare the time for writing up? Whatever the reason for the delay, he has 7 more days to fulfill his promise.

I for one am on tenterhooks!


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