AwareofAware

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

Archive for the tag “Sam Parnia”

Brand New Findings Revealed?

Thanks to Eduardo for picking this one up. I am extremely busy at the moment so don’t always have the time to trawl the networks for anything Parnia or NDE related, so appreciate when others email me links or post them in discussions. I felt this was worth pulling out. It was aired earlier this week on Dr Oz on January 22nd 2018. Dr Oz opens the segment with the announcement that brand new findings are going to be revealed (in the show). He then introduces Dr Parnia…well have a look yourself, click on the picture of our favorite intensive care doctor to access the video:

Parnia

Is this a sleight of hand or is there actually new data, or “brand new findings”?

Dr Parnia on one hand seems to describe the design of the most recent iteration of AWARE, AWARE II, then slips in “we did a study…” talking about the results from AWARE I. Given that he categorically stated in emails and on his Twitter feed that the results from AWARE II won’t be made public until after the study is finished in 2020, and that at this stage they have only recruited 350 or so, one can only assume that he is referring to AWARE I. However, the confidence he has in the assertions he makes seem to be growing stronger, which makes me believe that AWARE II has got some verified hits. AWARE I did not have any properly confirmed OBEs (i.e. validated sightings of pictures). There were some interesting accounts, and without doubt some real NDEs, and OBEs, but without the visual confirmation, they are nothing more than has been reported from countless other studies or independent accounts.

I do wonder why he is doing this. Is it to plug his book (Dr Oz does that at the end of the segment)? On some days he seems keen to protect the integrity of the study by not disclosing any preliminary results, but on others he does this kind of stuff. I guess there’s nothing specifically wrong with it, but from my perspective as a scientist, I do find the hyperbole attached to this format of show to be distracting and potentially tainting the credibility of the research, especially when the headlines do not match the reality. From what I can see there are no new major findings presented in this show.

As I say above, I can only assume that he is so confident now in producing paradigm shifting results, that he knows that in the long term, this will not cause any damage.

Early results from AWARE II?

Thanks Eduardo for sending the link to this article last night.

The article starts out moderately interesting, discussing the case of one woman’s NDE thirty years ago, then mentioning Jeffrey Long’s database, and Eben Alexander. Then it moves to our favourite NDE researcher, Dr Sam Parnia. Of course our interests are piqued, then our eyes pop out at this bombshell:

“Parnia is in the midst of working on a follow-up study, called AWARE II, with a public announcement likely in the next six months.”

So I have mentioned in past posts that the study is planned to finish recruitment in 2020. However, those who are close followers of this blog, and the comments sections (which are often more interesting than the posts as they contain some excellent observations etc from fellow NDE “nerds”), will have noted that I have often said if there were two or more verifiable hits (i.e. fully documented NDEs with confirmed OBEs – namely the subject seeing the image on the LCD screen), prior to complete recruitment, then I suspect Dr. Parnia would go public.

Could this be what that announcement will be about? Of course, we will not know until it is actually announced, but if it is, then this will be the event we have all been waiting for ever since AWARE I was first mentioned way back in the mid noughties. This will be the moment we see a permanent paradigm shift in scientific thinking, and methodological materialism will be dead.

I am very hopeful. I noted last year that there was suddenly a big upsurge in activity from the AWARE study team. At the same time, they stopped communicating with external sources like myself. At the time I speculated that they had one hit, and they were ramping up activity to get another, whilst insuring the integrity of the study by keeping any new data strictly under wraps.

Also, of interest in the article are the comments made about the whole 10 percent issue. Dr Parnia appears to have created a part of the questionnaire that picks up subconscious recollections from the resuscitation:

“For instance, in some cases people who appear unconscious are given names of cities and objects,” he says. “When they have recovered they have been asked to recall any memories. Even though they have no recall, when asked to ‘randomly’ think of cities, those who had been exposed to the stimuli are statistically more likely to choose the same cities compared to control subjects. Thus indicating they had heard it.” 

Aside from the rather bizarre thought of nurses and doctors randomly shouting “Mogadishu” between “charge the paddles” and “clear”, this could provide some very interesting insights into whether the fact only 10 percent recall an NDE is memory related or otherwise, the topic of the previous post(s).

While this is very important, I am hoping that the announcement will relate to verified OBEs.

Dr Parnia, you have us all on tenterhooks!

Link to article: AOL article on NDEs

Why Do We See a Decline In Reports Of NDEs With Age?

Over the past month I have summarized the key findings from the 3 main prospective studies looking into NDEs that all reported their results in the early 2000s. Since then there have been no large trials of this kind reporting in major medical journals – the research has reached a point where using the methods of the time, no more results of genuine academic interest will be discovered. The Parnia pilot study, like all the others, had established that NDEs were relatively rare (about 10%) and that there would need to be a very large number of Cardiac Arrest (CA) survivors to produce a “proven” out of body experience (OBE), the ultimate scientific result. Dr. Parnia and his team of co-investigators set up the AWARE study in 2008, with the objective of recruiting just such a high number in the hope of discovering this “smoking gun”.

If the NDE is real, and the OBE is a real element of NDEs, then it is inevitable that one day the AWARE study will produce one or more proven OBEs, and that afterwards more studies will produce an increasing number of similar results. This is the baseline that I assume in the book Aware of Aware, because for me, someone who has always believed in the existence of the soul, and having encountered credible people who have told me about their NDEs (usually reluctantly), this result is not the most interesting that can come out of this area of research. It is a bit like when man first went into outer space, or reached a high enough altitude to notice the curvature of the earth, the observation that the earth was not flat was not a surprise. So it is with believers in NDEs, a proven OBE will only tell us what we already knew. However, for the large numbers who don’t believe that NDEs are real or that the soul exists, this piece of evidence is crucial, and in my view has the potential to be the most important scientific finding ever as it will end the materialistic view that modern man has developed of life and his own existence.

For me, one of the most interesting findings from NDE studies is the correlation between age at the time of CA and reporting an NDE. The most common and palatable explanation for this is that the ability to report declines with age due to loss of memory function. This seems like an acceptable hypothesis until you look into it in a bit more detail.

Firstly, it is just a hypothesis. None of the three studies performed prospective investigations to link memory function with reporting an NDE – (there were no differences in psychological factors between experiencers and non-experiencers). To link memory directly to reporting an NDE would require adding a comprehensive memory test, or questionnaire, to the interviews that were conducted.

Personally, I am not convinced about the lack of NDEs in older patients being memory related. The first reason for this is the huge difference between reports of NDEs in the young (especially pre-adolescent) and old, with younger patients having an incidence of more than 50%. Whilst memory function does decline with age, older people do still report NDEs, so it is not the fact that a younger brain has a unique ability to remember this kind of experience. Nor can age-related decline in function account for such a huge disparity. Unless a patient has Alzheimer’s, older people do still remember dreams and recent events, maybe not quite so well, but the differences of reported events would require a decline of function many orders of magnitude higher than is generally the case.

Another very interesting piece of data that comes out of the Van Lommel study is the fact that women are more likely to have an NDE than men. In the Dutch study the overall incidence of reported NDE is 12%, however with women it is 21% (p=0.011 – p values relate to statistical significance; in general a p value lower than 0.05 is considered statistically significant as there is less than a 1 in 20 chance that this outcome could have occurred randomly). The fact that women were on average 5 years older, is also directly relevant to this discussion (mean age for men 61 vs 66 for women).

To put this result into the context of the issue of memory being the driving factor behind age related differences in reporting of NDEs, for this to be true, a 61 year old man would have to be nearly twice as likely to have severe memory problems as a 66 year old woman. This doesn’t ring true, and there is nothing in the literature to support this. There was some recent data to suggest minor differences between sexes with regard to reported changes in memory (in the HUNT3 study, Holmen et al. reported that 1.2% of women and 1.6% of men, aged 30-89, reported severe memory problems, changing to 0.9 vs 1.5% age range 60-69), but this does not account for the differences in reported NDE. Incidentally this study also showed that there was little difference in reports of severe memory problems between younger and older patients, however there was an increase in reporting of some minor memory problems as age progressed, but this again would not account for the greater than 5-fold difference between reports of NDEs in young subjects vs old.

So what is going on? For me that is the biggest question of all. If physiological and psychological factors cannot account for age related reduction in reporting of NDEs then maybe there is some other “unscientific” factor. Given that we are entering uncharted territory with regard to science potentially proving the existence of the soul, it should not be surprising that conventional science cannot answer questions regarding the incidence of NDE occurrence.

In Aware of Aware I propose some potential answers as to why it is that we observe these differences in reporting of NDEs, including the potential for Soul Death. Such an idea might be extremely disturbing to some, but to those familiar with various religious texts, this is very familiar.

I have a favor to ask regular readers of this blog. For a short time (till the end of June) I will be making Aware of Aware available at the lowest price Amazon will allow. If you have the time, and want to help me, please could you buy a copy, read the book and then do one of two things:

  1. If you enjoy the book and feel it is relevant to the discussion, post a review on Amazon.
  2. If you don’t enjoy it, please refrain from posting a negative review at this stage, rather, please could you contact me through this site, using the “contact me” link in the header or complete the form below and let me know how I could improve it.

(to buy click on one of the links below to Aware of Aware or search on your local Amazon site in either the kindle or book section – NB: it’s not always on the first page of a search!):

Aware of Aware US Amazon Kindle ($0.99)

Aware of Aware US Amazon Hard Copy (should be $7.63 by end of June 2nd)

I will shortly be updating the book with some of the data that I have been posting here, as well as trying to improve the overall content in any other ways possible, so your suggestions or comments would be very timely.

Cheers!

Last But Not Least

This is the 3rd and final overview in my series of reviews of prospective NDE studies. The last study, A qualitative and quantitative study of the incidence, features and aetiology of near death experiences in cardiac arrest survivors, was published in 2001 in Resuscitation. The author was Dr. Sam Parnia, who is very well known to the readers of this blog. This study was in fact the pilot study for the ongoing AWARE study. (pilot studies are small scale studies designed to identify any issues with technique, and also gain an understanding of numbers that would be required to drive a result from a planned larger study)

The study was conducted at Southampton General Hospital over the course of one year. This was another study that exclusively looked to prospectively recruit Cardiac Arrest (CA) survivors. Patients were interviewed within a week of the event, and any memories that were recorded were assessed using the Greyson scale. The investigators also assessed various physiological parameters such as hypoxia, electrolyte disturbances, drugs, as well as psychological factors such as religion.

This study was the first to prospectively deploy the use of “targets” to verify OBEs (i.e. to prove whether or not they are indeed veridical). Cards with images facing the ceiling were placed above the beds in the resuscitation suite. To quote Dr. Parnia on the use of these images:

“If OBEs are indeed veridical, anybody who claimed to have left their body and be near the ceiling during a resuscitation attempt would be expected to identify those targets. If, however, such perceptions are psychological, then one would not expect the targets to be identified”

This statement is problematic, but it is a moot point in this instance, as I shall explain.

The results of the study can be viewed in the abstract below, but to briefly summarize, out of 63 CAs, only 4 (6.3%) subjects had an NDE by the Greyson scale. There was no difference in psychological or physiological factors between those who experienced an NDE and those that didn’t. There were slightly higher levels of oxygen in the blood of those who experienced an NDE, than those that didn’t, but the numbers were too small to form a conclusive causative association. There were no OBEs reported, not just that no one saw the cards, but that no one even reported an OBE.

Once again, we see very small numbers of CA survivors who either experience, or are able to remember, an NDE. This influenced the eventual design of the AWARE study, with the investigators deciding that there would need to be at least 1000 CA survivors to sufficiently power the study and generate enough cases to form statistically significant conclusions about NDEs. Because there were no reported OBEs by any patients, this study did not inform the team as to how they should progress with the targets.

This last point is important, as I point in my book Aware of Aware, the same card based targets were initially deployed in the AWARE study. This is a relatively limited and crude way of verifying OBEs since not all patients report seeing themselves from directly above. There are other issues that I will not belabor here, but I understand that the targets have been refined and become more sophisticated as the AWARE study has progressed.

So this concludes my mini-series of reviews of the 3 main prospective studies that have been published on NDEs. I will discuss the combined findings and implications in another post, but suffice to say, these studies at once lend credibility to the NDE phenomenon and the area of research, but also leave the most important question unanswered, namely, is the NDE proven to be a genuine transcendental experience in which our conscious separates from us, or is it all just happening in our heads. Personally, I believe that the NDE is the former, and therefore it is logical to conclude that it is only a matter of time before a target is identified (the pretext for the book Aware of Aware). Hopefully it won’t be long before we find out if the AWARE study has indeed achieved this goal.

Abstract:

Aim :To carry out a prospective study of cardiac arrest survivors to understand the qualitative features as well as incidence, and possible aetiology of near death experiences (NDEs) in this group of patients. Method : All survivors of cardiac arrests during a 1 year period were interviewed within a week of their arrest, regarding memories of their unconscious period. Reported memories were assessed by the Greyson NDE Scale. The postulated role of physiological, psychological and transcendental factors were studied. Physiological parameters such as oxygen status were extracted from the medical notes. Patients’ religious convictions were documented in the interviews and hidden targets were used to test the transcendental theories on potential out of body claims. Those with memories were compared to those without memories. Results : 11.1% of 63 survivors reported memories. The majority had NDE features. There appeared to be no differences on all physiological measured parameters apart from partial pressure of oxygen during the arrest which was higher in the NDE group. Conclusions : Memories are rare after resuscitation from cardiac arrest. The majority of those that are reported have features of NDE and are pleasant. The occurrence of NDE during cardiac arrest raises questions about the possible relationship between the mind and the brain. Further large-scale studies are needed to understand the aetiology and true significance of NDE.

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Setting the Scene

While we wait for the official publication of the AWARE study in a peer reviewed medical journal, I thought it would be interesting to visit some of the previous research in this area. Over the next few weeks I will be commenting on the main prospective studies which were previously published in mainstream medical literature (as characterized by their searchability on PubMed), this would not include studies published in the Journal of Near Death Studies. I subscribe to this journal, so I do not mean to belittle it, however, at this stage I feel that referring to journals accepted by the academic establishment makes these articles more credible to those who are visiting this site who are not “believers”.

The first paper that I am going to comment on is Incidence and correlates of near-death experiences in a cardiac care unit by Bruce Greyson M.D. This was published in General Hospital Psychiatry in 2003. Here is the abstract:

Near-death experiences, unusual experiences during a close brush with death, may precipitate pervasive attitudinal and behavior changes. The incidence and psychological correlates of such experiences, and their association with proximity to death, are unclear. We conducted a 30-month survey to identify near-death experiences in a tertiary care center cardiac inpatient service. In a consecutive sample of 1595 patients admitted to the cardiac inpatient service (mean age 63 years, 61% male), of whom 7% were admitted with cardiac arrest, patients who described near-death experiences were matched with comparison patients on diagnosis, gender, and age. Near-death experiences were reported by 10% of patients with cardiac arrest and 1% of other cardiac patients (P<.001). Near-death experiencers were younger than other patients (P=.001), were more likely to have lost consciousness (P<.001) and to report prior purportedly paranormal experiences (P=.009), and had greater approach-oriented death acceptance (P=.01). Near-death experiencers and comparison patients did not differ in sociodemographic variables, social support, quality of life, acceptance of their illness, cognitive function, capacity for physical activities, degree of cardiac dysfunction, objective proximity to death, or coronary prognosis.

Greyson is one of the most widely published researchers on NDEs in the established literature with a host of citations to his name. He is also the creator of the Greyson NDE scale, an interview tool used by researchers to establish whether the experience is an NDE or otherwise (if the subject scores greater than 5-7, then the experience is classified as an NDE). In other words Greyson is NDE royalty, along with the likes of Raymond Moddy, Michael Sobom, Kenneth Ring and relative newcomers like Sam Parnia.

This study was prospective, which means that it was set up in advance of the events recorded in it, with clearly established protocols designed to capture various data around the phenomenon. Subjects were included in this study if they had been admitted to the University of Virgina Hospital with a number of possible different cardiac outcomes. Once the patients had stabilized (within 6 days) they were asked to complete a questionnaire which identified various baseline (pre-existing) characteristics such as sociodemographic factors (income, social isolation etc) and severity of cardiac incident among others. They were also asked to complete the Greyson scale questionnaire, and if they had a score higher than 7 they were assigned to the experiencer group.

The aspect of this study that differentiates it from others is the use of matched controls. Matched controls are basically a way of trying to identify what variables (changeable characteristics such as belief) might contribute to a phenomenon when key characteristics are fixed. In this study they “matched” the subjects who experienced NDEs with subjects who didn’t experience NDEs but had similar age, gender and primary diagnosis. They took the NDEers and the matched controls and conducted more in depth interviews identifying such things as prior paranormal experiences. By doing this it is possible to identify factors that are associated with someone having an NDE. They also compared characteristics of the NDEer group to the wider, unmatched, cohort who did not experience an NDE.

I won’t repeat the results that are presented in the abstract above, but rather highlight a few interesting findings and comment on some of the conclusions.

• NDEs were most common in those who had survived a cardiac arrest (10%), compared to 2% of the entire cardiac event cohort. This makes this a landmark study because it is the first to show that NDEs are associated with the patient actually being close to death.
• The mean Greyson score for the NDE group (27 patients in total) was 12.7. This compared to 21 of the 23 matched controls achieving a score of 0, and 2 of the controls who scored 1. This finding extends to the wider non-experiencer population, 96% of whom scored 0 and the remainder who scored less than 5. This has clear implications in that there is no grey area here (which might be the case if this was a purely physiological effect). You either have an NDE or you don’t.
• NDEers reported more prior paranormal experiences than the matched controls. Greyson makes the following remark “Experiencers in this study did in fact report more prior purportedly paranormal experiences than did non-experiencers. That difference may suggest that persons who believe they had a paranormal experience are more likely to report NDEs; or it may suggest that persons who have NDEs are more likely to interpret past experiences as paranormal.”

There is of course another potential explanation for this last observation that Greyson does not include. People who have NDEs report more prior paranormal experiences because they are more “spiritual” i.e. there is something about them that makes them more likely to have paranormal experiences AND NDEs.

This last notion, a predisposition towards spirituality, is something I discuss in much greater length in my book Aware Of Aware. One explanation could be that there is a genetic predisposition to being spiritually sensitive (the God Gene). Another explanation is that some people do not have a spirit (they either weren’t born with one, or they spiritually died). This may seem abhorrent, but if the NDE is real, and therefore the conscious (spirit) is real and independent of the body, then one perfectly valid interpretation of the data from NDE studies is that only 10% of people have a spirit.

Greyson addresses this very question in his study, speculating that the reasons that only 10% of subjects report an NDE is because they either couldn’t remember it or didn’t want to disclose. This may indeed be the case, and they are less troublesome explanations, but as disturbing as it might be, to exclude the possibility that there are two types of people, one with a spirit and one without, with no evidence one way or the other, is unscientific.

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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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