AwareofAware

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

Archive for the tag “Sam Parnia”

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)

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666520422000418

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.

AWARE II: 15% of people had REDs

This is the first time I think that Dr. Parnia has mentioned any specific numbers from the forthcoming and much anticipated publication of data from AWARE II. A nice teaser quote from the UK Telegraph this weekend:

“Dr Parnia said soon-to-be published research will show that around 15 per cent of people who have been resuscitated from a coma after cardiac arrest have a Recalled Experience of Death.”

Daily Telegraph, 7th May 2022. Sarah Knapton, Science Editor

Link to latest AWARE II teaser

(it is behind a paywall, and given it is mostly a summary of the consensus statement and the state of the field, useful and informative to the wider public, but won’t be news to most here – except for the quote I have given)

Of course it is possible that this could be from his other research which from my understanding is a retrospective database analysis of reports they have collected from NYU and other establishments over the years, but I don’t think he would necessarily be able to state such a well defined number since, unlike AWARE II, that work is not a prospective study that looks at incidence of NDE among all those who survive a CA. Moreover, the fact that he has been trailing the publication of AWARE II for months now, would suggest it is from this study.

I think this is very important as I assume that he will be using the new criteria for REDs to differentiate from other experiences. It also significantly increases the chances of a “HIT”…by about 50% in fact. Given the rigour with which his team at NYU are conducting this research, I think that 15% will become the established number…provided the wider survivor cohort is sufficiently large.

I also think it is really important to consider that OBEs have largely been redefined as EVAs (external visual awareness), which by their very definition require VISUAL recollections. For a long time here we have been discussing the possibility of auditory OBEs , but in the consensus paper these are only mentioned in the context of accompanying an EVA and not a significant phenomenon in its own right.

There are some good NDEs in the comments section of the telegraph article, including one from a chap who had 3 CAs but only produced a single RED. This has been reported before on numerous occasions and points to Dr Parnia’s assertion that most, if not all, people who die and are resuscitated have an NDE (not a RED), but most can’t recall them due to physiological and/or biochemical reasons (which is why they aren’t REDs). This undermines one of the theories I state in my book, which I would be very happy to see undermined as it is not all that pleasant!!

Reminder in the link of my book which I recently updated (available amazon globally). I will be writing another update post AWARE II publication which, in addition to analysis of the new data, will include adjustments and additions to the possible theories as to why 80-90% can’t recall their NDE. This will reflect some of the excellent analysis provided on this topic in the consensus paper.

Link to my book on the AWARE studies

Really good to see the MSM, particularly a respected broadsheet like The Telegraph, take this seriously and report it in a balanced objective manner.

“This time next year Rodney”

We come to that time of the year again when we look back at the past year and rue the lack of new data, and look forward hoping that this year will be different. We are like the characters in the 1980s UK hit TV show, Only Fools and Horses featuring Del Boy and Rodney Trotter, who lived in a state apartment in a poor part of London and were always coming up with schemes to make themselves rich, but never succeeding. “This time next year Rodney,” Del boy would say to his younger brother, “we’ll be millionaires.” It was either this analogy I was going to use, or Groundhog Day…both fit the feeling I have about the AWARE II study despite the promising Tweet made just after New Years which stated:

“We hope to see you in 2022 as we ring in the New Year with exciting news, including updates on the AWARE II study!

This has been followed more recently by some Tweets on the study that looks into paradoxical terminal lucidity in patients with Dementia. I currently work in Dementia as a medical scientist for a Biotech with “skin in the game” so to speak. Also, I watched my father die from Dementia, so I am very interested in this study. I have spoken about this in previous posts, so won’t say any more for now.

On the promise of “updates on the AWARE II study” I am now very cautious about raising my hopes too much having experienced so much disappointment over the years. My expectations range from a statement saying they have more hospitals recruiting patients, to a paper, or conference abstract that provides more details on the different auditory experiences they reported at AHA 2019. The latter has the potential to be extremely important, although I doubt the media or wider scientific community will regard it in such a light. It is clear that Parnia does not believe that CPRIC (CPR induced consciousness) or blood flow from CPR could produce NDEs. I was not certain of this until I read the essay that he submitted to the Bigelow competition (more on that in a moment). It is possible that the update from the AWARE II study includes data from EEG and ECG matched against one or more of the reported auditory OBEs. This could be the smoking gun. Like I said, the scientific community may not accept it as such without a lot of persuasion.

The Tweet trailing “exciting news” was not just confined to the AWARE II study though. It is possible that data may be presented from AWARE III, the study looking into OBEs reported during hypothermic surgery. They recruited their first patient in August 2020, and it is possible that they have been recruiting a number each month, and if that were the case, I would fully expect to have a hit by now.

Who knows, but watch this space, or sign up directly to their Twitter feed.

On another note, I was able to read Sam Parnia’s essay over the Christmas holidays. It was a robust defense of the argument supporting NDEs and as well as going over a lot of old ground, I feel he made a lot more of the hit from AWARE I than he previously has, specifically stating that this is the only time in a clinical study that recollections from an NDE have been corroborated by attending HCPs AND that these recollections were time stamped to prove that they were from a time that the patient had no heartbeat. In some ways this made me feel a little concerned that this would be his “forever hit”, and that from his standpoint no more evidence is needed. From a proof standpoint, I somewhat agree, but then I would, it’s the wider scientific community that demands more.

He also provided a very good argument, supported by data, that CPR could not produce the lucid kind of experiences described in NDEs as CPR does not produce sufficient blood flow, and the EEG patterns associated with CPR do not correspond to consciousness. As others have noted in previous discussions, this puts to bed any doubts around CPR causing the auditory OBEs in AWARE II despite this going against the line that he put in his AHA abstract, so I look forward to any publication that goes into this further. He also discussed CPRIC which is a completely different phenomenon, and is when the patient achieves consciousness during CPR, normally as a result of brief restoration of heart beat. This kind of event is always associated with confusion and distress, and completely different from the kind of recollections that feature in an NDE.

Anyway, I will once again draw deep on my reserves of hope that we will learn of that illusive hit before too long. To me it is inevitable, and judging by the Tweets, the Parnia team also believe it is inevitable, otherwise why would they be so assertive in claiming that CA survivors can recall details from the time they were beyond the threshold of death?

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.

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.

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.

Discuss!

Data from Parnia Lab at AHA Nov 2020

Last year Sam Parnia presented the first data to come out of AWARE II with the suggestion that validated auditory OBEs had been recorded. I was hoping that we would see something that expanded on that initial report this year, but so far the only data that has been registered from NYU with his name on it is abstract 314 “Cardiac Arrest Related Cognitive Activity” By Tara Shirazi and Sam Parnia, which will be presented this Friday.

I found it through downloading the AHA conference app and searching for him, and the link the app spits out doesn’t work, when I find one that does work I will add it here (now below). The abstract is interesting though nothing groundbreaking. It is a retrospective analysis of patient reports of consciousness after Cardiac Arrest. These were held in a registry of CA survivors. There were 118 reports of consciousness (out of how many we are not told although the numbers 10-20% are mentioned at the beginning), and the reports were analyzed and various themes identified. The usual NDE motifs cropped up – like tunnel and life-review. OBEs were reported in 40% of the cases, which is higher than the previous reports of 25% of NDEs having OBEs. Maybe because this was a situation of patients self-reporting outside of an observational study, they only felt the need to do this if the experience was particularly notable, and having an OBE would definitely make it notable.

It is possible that there will be a late breaking presentation by Sam Parnia, but at the moment it doesn’t look as though AHA 2020 is going to give us anything new on the NDE front.

https://eventpilotadmin.com/web/page.php?page=IntHtml&project=AHA20&id=ress27

More data from AWARE II(maybe), news on AWARE III and my book.

It’s been a while, so I thought I should post some thoughts and updates. In terms of the latter, this has been a very quiet year, not just from Sam Parnia, but in general on the subject of NDEs. Of course everything has been overshadowed by COVID. Most conventions or scientific meetings have either been cancelled or held virtually.

I recently attended a virtual European convention on sleep science, and it was an illuminating experience. In some ways it was better – no airport security queues, or late night rides in a smelly taxi to soulless hotels where I would be away from my family for days on end. I found I was able to interact with other researchers quite well when they were presenting data, and I was able to look at the things I was interested in at my leisure – while wearing very casual attire. However, in general it was vastly inferior to an in person convention, and while my job was already one that was done partly from home, and in future things will be a hybrid, I cannot wait till I am able to get back into the hospitals and universities to meet with physicians and scientific researchers face to face.

As a result of this year, many of the meetings where someone like Dr Parnia would present have not occurred in the normal way, and when you google him, or the AWARE study, most of the links come from previous years. The truly awful Daily Express seems to create recent links to a rehashed story on Dr Parnia explaining NDEs in terms of something that can be explained by physiological means, but I have never heard him say that in a meeting or in a written article. However, he did just publish a paper exploring the link between cerebral oxygen levels and neurological outcomes after Cardiac Arrest (CA). The abstract published in last month’s Resuscitation does not hint at any data on consciousness, so I am going to withhold my $36 to buy the full text, although if we continue to experience this NDE news drought, I may well go ahead and buy it! There was data he presented at AHA last year that did seem to hint at a possible link between conscious brain activity during CA and oxygen levels, so I suspect this new data may have come from his AWARE research group – hence the teaser of data from AWARE II in the title! (I know, somewhat tenuous, but these are desperate times for an NDE research blogger!). The link is here:

The association between post-cardiac arrest cerebral oxygenation and survival with favorable neurological outcomes: A multicenter study

So other than this, we have been left with Sam Parnia’s very quiet Twitter feed and the Parnia lab website which has been updated as the year has gone by. The most significant thing to come out of that has been the announcement of the commencement of the study on awareness during deep hypothermic circulatory arrest. This is in essence the COOL study mark II.

The COOL study was set up in Montreal at the beginning of the last decade and designed to investigate reports of NDEs and OBEs during deep hypothermic cardio circulatory arrest. Out of 33 returned questionnaires, 3 reported conscious mental activity (very much in line with the 10% reported from CA NDEs) one veridical OBE report was made from this study in which a young pregnant woman reported seeing various instruments that were behind her head, and was later verified by hospital staff (VOLUME 83, ISSUE 1, E19 2012. Conscious mental activity during a deep hypothermic cardio circulatory arrest? Mario Beauregard). The study was retrospective and did not have the kinds of experiments built into it that could prove an OBE. This is where Dr Parnia’s study is different since it is prospective and uses the same equipment that is used in the AWARE II study. I am dubbing this new study the AWARE III study, since it falls under the same AWARE research umbrella. As I have mentioned in previous posts, this study has a lot more chance of eventually getting “a hit” than AWARE II due to the controlled conditions (vs a random CA in an ER unit), prior patient awareness of the presence of the iPad and most importantly, the chance of surviving long enough to be interviewed. Dr Parnia tweeted that the first patient had been recruited in July of this year.

For a while there was a bit of confusion over whether AWARE II had wrapped up, partly due to one of the research portals saying recruitment had closed. However, on the Parnia Lab website it states that recruitment is still ongoing, and indeed they are looking to expand the number of research centers over the next two years.

So one day we will hear more from AWARE II or III. It may not be till next year now due to all the delays in everyone’s lives, especially someone like Dr Parnia who would have been in the thick of things earlier this year (although if he is anything like ICU and ER physicians I know in the UK, he will have had the quietest summer of his career!).

In the meantime, I have been focusing on my work in Neuroscience and on writing books. My non-fiction book on NDEs is now complete and has been copy edited. I will be publishing it imminently, maybe through extracts on here first. I have also found myself in the fortunate position of having 7 weeks gardening leave as I switch from one Biotech Neuroscience medical scientist role to another, and I have decided to devote this time to rewriting my second novel, which is based on a more outlandish extrapolation of NDE possibilities (think of Flatliners on steroids and you will be getting close). An idea along these lines has been knocking around my hard drive in various forms for over 20 years now, so it’ll be good to finally finish it!

Anyway, I continue to browse the web and pubmed a couple of times a week for news on Sam Parnia and NDEs, and I know others who come here do the same, so please get in touch with me if you see something. Rest assured, when things finally do get interesting again…which I have no doubt they will, I will be here starting a discussion on it!.

New Era For Parnia?

Thanks to Z for picking up on the new website for the “Parnia Lab”. The old link to his research projects had become a very bland summary of the medical aspects of his research, and I couldn’t find the new one…Z to the rescue again! Dr Parnia obviously has a lot of clout at NYU to have a lab named after himself before he retires, gets a chair or dies! Fair play to him, he deserves it. He is a true pioneer. It may also be something to do with the research grants his work attracts (that’s how it usually works).

Link to Parnia Lab website

The site is very slick, and well worth a visit. The site’s primary focus is on the important research that his group are conducting in resuscitation medicine, and it is clear that he is establishing himself as world leader in this area due to his focus on prolonging the viability of brain cells during CA so that when patients achieve ROSC, they won’t be impaired.

His discussions of NDEs are little more scientific and somewhat less philosophical in their tone, but nonetheless he does say this:

However, in a true cardiac arrest, when there is no heartbeat, even with CPR there is insufficient blood flow to the brain (around 20 percent) to meet the needs of brain cells. Consequently, seconds after cardiac arrest, brain function ceases as evidenced by brain stem reflexes and electrical activity in the brain. People also immediately lose any visible signs of consciousness and are deemed unconscious by all available clinical assessments.

However, cognitive activity and conscious awareness have been reported by 10 to 20 percent of people from the period of true cardiac arrest. Studies of cardiac arrest survivors’ experiences of awareness during a time when the brain is not functioning support the idea that—as with many other conditions that biologically mimic death, such as deep hypothermic circulatory arrest—even when people lose conscious awareness of the outside world and do not feel pain or discomfort, the entity of the human consciousness and mind may not become immediately annihilated once the heartbeat ceases.

The first paragraph does somewhat contradict the findings that he presented in his own poster presented at AHA last Fall in which it was suggested that they had recorded sufficient brain activity during CPR to potentially support conscious activity. This has been disputed by others here due to the type of brain waves, but the poster is quite explicit in stating this possibility.

He also mentions on the homepage how their new discoveries are providing insights into understanding the nature of consciousness that bridges the gap between science and philosophy (thanks for pointing this out Clay). The tone of this site is definitely more focused on the medical science than consciousness side of things. This can only help further establish his credentials as a serious scientist.

Anyway, it is good that he has own website now, and hopefully we will see more in the way of frequent updates. No doubt Z or someone else will get there first!

Just an illusion

My training in Chemistry has long since given me a view on matter that shatters most people’s perception of reality. When you look around, you are fooled into believing you are seeing solid objects, but in reality you are not. “Solidity” is an illusion created by the absorption of light by electrons orbiting atomic nuclei.

The truth is that electrons, and nuclei take up tiny amounts of space, but due to the nature of quantum mechanics and the speed of movement of sub-atomic particles, they create the appearance of solidity. Moreover, due to electrostatic repulsion when objects come into close proximity, they “feel” solid. However, if all movement of electrons were stopped, and you were able to bring all sub atomic particles into immediate juxtaposition, objects like trees, even buildings would be invisible to the naked eye. To exemplify this point it has been estimated that if you were to bring all the sub atomic particles that comprise the entire human race together it would be about the size of a sugar cube. (Link)

Currently, I have a very poor understanding of quantum mechanics, something that I wish to address over the coming years as I feel it is important for gaining deeper insight into this whole subject area, but from what I do understand, and from facts like the sugar cube and that the entire universe originated from an impossibly small pin prick of light, I sometimes feel nervous about the nature of “reality”. In fact, I wonder if it is in fact just a gigantic illusion. I know others believe the same.

So how does that fit into the subject of NDEs? When I read about NDEs, people often describe their experiences of the other side as feeling more real than “real life”. Others refer to this life as a place of learning to prepare us for the next life. When you combine those subjective observations with the understanding of matter I just described, then it does indeed make more than just a bit of sense to understand the physical universe as being just illusory, and that our brains are the quantum processing machines allowing our consciousness to interface with this “illusion”. Now the fact we experience this illusion through our consciousness lends it a reality that it may not otherwise have had. This is not unrelated to the notion in quantum mechanics that a quantum state is not real until it is observed (I am probably saying that incorrectly).

Anyway, before I end up disappearing into a philosophical rabbit hole of ever decreasing circles, I just want to conclude with another concern that I have. Let’s say that this view of things is somewhat correct, namely that this life is illusory in nature and that the life after is “real”. How do we know that life is actually “real” and not just another level of a wider illusion in which we move.

Finally, I invite those who are better informed than I am on this particular area to comment on how this may or may not relate to Penrose and Hameroff’s theory about micro tubules within neurons being sites of quantum processing, and that this forms the basis of consciousness. I apologise in advance for not following up on comments immediately as I am travelling for the next couple of weeks.

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