AwareofAware

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

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.

Happy Christmas!

“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.”

John 1:9

I usually avoid referencing my faith as I want this blog to focus objectively on the research around NDEs. However, in an era where I see my fellow Christians being persecuted on an ever larger scale, and the establishment doing its best to eradicate faith in Christ from the public space, please indulge me on this day that is special to me and billions of others, and let me wish you a Happy Christmas.

Many people who have NDEs report a being of light emanating unconditional love. I personally believe this light is a being we call God, and that today, I celebrate the moment I believe this light came to earth in the form of a man called Jesus and shared a message that is echoed in many NDEs: Love one another…everyone, without exception.

 

A Little More Detail

I finally received a response from Dr Parnia today to my questions. As I said previously, many of the questions had been answered in the various twitter posts he had created, specifically about numbers recruited so far, and timelines. There was a little more detail about the latter in the email.

  • The announcement next year will effectively be the launch “proper” of the study once the new sites have fully come on board and the methodologies fully nailed down
  • No analysis of the data will be undertaken until the study is complete in 2020
  • The results of the study will most likely be announced just prior to publication in 2021

There are obviously a number of aspects to the study, and aside from the area we are most interested in, there will be data that will help enhance treatment of patients during and after resuscitation.

This is all good news, apart from the fact we will have to wait so long. The reason this is good news is that the steps that are being taken will insure this is a high quality study and that the results will stand up to kind of scrutiny that can be expected.

From my end, I am going to tone down the speculation on what has or has not happened, as frankly, while we can guess, we don’t know, and I don’t want to do anything that might in any way jeopardize this important piece of research.

However, I will still be posting on NDEs, and other bits and pieces of research etc that appear from time to time.

False Alarm

Thanks Z for alerting me to Dr. Parnia’s new tweets (he tweets so rarely that I don’t check as often as I should).

Some of my regular contributors in the comments section did caution me about getting excited and it turns out they were dead right. I sent an email to Dr Parnia asking him about numbers recruited, when there would be any announcements about the data and a few other points. It seems I probably wasn’t the only one as he answered these exact questions in a series of tweets:

 

tweet 3

If you read from the top it starts out promising, but then:

Untitled-1 copy

3 years. Oh dear. I get it, they want to be thorough and make sure it is done properly. they do have new sites on board, which is good and should accelerate the recruitment.

tweet 2

 

My question though is that if they have completed recruitment by the middle of 2018, they will surely only need to do the statistics after that. Another 2 years to go through the data and write it up seems like a very long time to me. However, he’s pretty clear that there won’t be any interim announcements, and that they will wait till the study is complete before saying anything.

 

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

No one is just an empty meat suit (probably)

I wanted to clarify my position on the whole 10-20% of people experiencing NDEs issue.

I am a scientist, and as a scientist I am taught to look at all possible explanations for a phenomenon, and refute ones that aren’t correct, and prove ones that are, through a rigorous analysis of the evidence. Just because a possible explanation for something is unpleasant, shocking, unpopular or even potentially absurd, it does not in and of itself disprove its validity. In the last post I said there were two main reasons why (lack of memory, or lack of experience, with two examples). Below are all the different potential explanations for 80-90% not reporting NDEs that I can think of:

1. Lack of Memory:

  • This in my view is the most likely explanation i.e. they don’t remember the NDE even though they had one. This is supported by people who die and come back more than once not always reporting an NDE…this is analogous to people not always remembering their dreams. It may also be due to physical memory impairment from injury, lack of oxygen, age, disease etc.
  • Related to this I would add the idea of a lack of well-developed spiritual “receptors” in the brain. It has been shown that there is a part of the brain that is associated with spirituality through brain imaging studies undertaken while subjects were claiming to have spiritual experiences. There has also been the idea of a God Gene that has been floated in the past which results in some people being born with different levels of development of this part of the brain. If the brain is the receptor for the conscious, or spirit, then it is possible that some people will be less able to process or remember an NDE, which is of course a highly spiritual experience.
  • It is also possible that some people are having NDEs but they are so traumatic or disconcerting that their brain suppresses the memory.

2.Not all people have NDEs when they die and come back.

  • Again, the fact that some people die and come back more than once and don’t always report an NDE could support this. I think some detailed research would be required (or has probably been done if I could afford all back issues of IANDS), that would shed more light on this.
  • Now the big question is that if some people are not having NDEs (as opposed to just not remembering them), why aren’t they having them? This is where my possible explanation mooted in my last post caused such offence. It is indeed a logical possibility that some people are without a spiritual being inside of them. Do I believe that? No. But it is a possible explanation.
  • Another explanation, as one poster mentioned in the last discussion, is that maybe they weren’t supposed to have one…maybe they would have reacted so badly, it would not have been of benefit.

3. They are having NDEs, and are remembering, but not reporting them

  • They are ashamed to report what happened even if they do remember it OR they are too afraid of others laughing at them to report the experience.

So I hope this clarifies things…I am not of the view that the vast majority of humans are soulless meat suits, but as a scientist, I want to assess all possible explanations, and not exclude any until the evidence strongly suggests I should.

Death and taxes

As the well-worn phrase states, neither can be avoided. I think this video has been mentioned in various posts before, but I wanted it to be highlighted as I think it is really important.

Firstly it is a video of Sam Parnia, the principle investigator of the AWARE II study, the central theme of this blog. Secondly it is a really neat summary of our current understanding of what years of research on NDEs tell us. Thirdly, it shows us that for the most part, we shouldn’t be afraid of death. But, there are caveats.

The first caveat is one that Dr Parnia himself alludes to, and that is suicide. It seems fairly consistant that people who kill themselves and come back often report different outcomes to those who die of natural or non-self-induced causes. This is hard, as suicide is often the result of unbearable anguish, and so I have sympathy for these people. However, that is what the reports say, and in our modern era in which physician assisted dying is either becoming legalized or being debated by democracies, this important information from NDEs should be included in these discussions.

The second caveat is one that Dr Parnia doesn’t mention, and that is the fact that only about 10% of people report NDEs. There are two potential explanations for this. The first is that the person had the experience, but for some reason is unable to remember it. The second is that the person didn’t have any experience at all. One reason could be that they didn’t have a soul. This is obviously extremely controversial, and even insulting to the 90% who don’t have NDEs, but it is nonetheless one possible explanation. I personally hope it is the former.

 

Study details have reappeared

Not a huge amount to add at the moment. For a while there seemed to be no formal public record of the fact that the AWARE II study was actually ongoing. However there is now a page on the NHS research site:

AWARE II HRA link

There are details of the study that most who visit this site are familiar with, including mention of the tablet facing upwards. I take these ongoing bits and pieces that surface from time to time to be very reassuring. The study is ongoing, the method seems sound and there is balance in the approach, which will lend it credibility when results are finally forthcoming.

Fake News

The term “Fake News” has recently entered the modern lexicon, especially in reference to stories from unconventional sources that have been repeatedly shared on social media relating to the US election. Without going into whether or not this is in itself is just a fake story created by the establishment to distract the public from the lack of good political candidates from any source, there are aspects to the whole meme of fake news that is very relevant to the area of NDE research. How so?

Firstly, there is the similarity of a recognizable existing establishment that lays claim to being the ultimate authority on what is real and what is fake. In the case of politics etc., it is the existing mainstream media that asserts that it alone is the protector of the truth, and properly vets stories and sources to insure accuracy and authenticity. These establishment organizations have loudly asserted that alt-media internet sites that create and distribute stories do not apply the same rigor when it comes to insuring accuracy, and in some cases may be deliberately falsifying stories to sway opinion. Given the dominance the establishment media has over the air waves/pages/web, their authority has, rightly or wrongly, largely been accepted by the general public. If someone sees a story on the BBC, CNN and so on, then they are much more likely to believe it than if it is from a less well known source. There are good reasons for this position of power, but at the same time power is abused, and the power of these media giants, who make alliances with commercial and political entities, has been proven to be abused in the past, for example the WMD Iraq reporting fiasco. So it is fair to say that there is a place for alternative media, and that sometimes these organizations may prove to be better sources of the truth than the establishment.

The existing establishment in research is the group of scientific and academic societies and journals that oversee and produce the vast majority of scientific research and publication of such research. Publishing your findings in a well-established and respected peer-reviewed journal is the necessary hallmark required for it to be taken seriously. Short of this a poster or oral presentation at reputable congress also provides a stamp of credibility. There are exceptions, but by and large this mode of moving understanding forward has proved remarkably reliable and for the most part has not been abused due to the desire of those involved in the system to preserve its integrity. I am one of those, and have published or presented a number of articles on medicinal chemistry or HIV clinical studies, and know that the research has to be authentic and reproducible for it to pass muster, and the scrutiny of journal editors. Therefore, it is very hard for a piece of research to be taken seriously if it has not gone through this accepted process.

However, there is a clear problem with this approach when a whole area of research is regarded with skepticism, or even derision, and the establishment will not even countenance it. This position is re-enforced by the mantra of methodological materialism that dominates the modern scientific establishment. This states that for a hypothesis to be testable, and therefore valid, no “supernatural” explanation can be invoked…there must always be a materialistic or natural explanation. This obviously has implications for NDE and OBE research.

I was recently sent an article by one of the readers of this blog about Nicolás Fraisse, a French man whose story many of you will no doubt be familiar with. The article was translated into English and is available by clicking on this link . It is a fascinating article and for those of us who believe that the soul or conscious is an entity that is capable of existing outside of the brain, the case of Nicolás Fraisse seems plausible. However, in the interview, the researcher states the following:

 

“The fact that the results are published in a book (link here) will not help. In general, anything not published in a scientific journal is not taken seriously. But we very much hope that scientists are interested in it, that they are looking for further study. The original objective was of course to be published in a scientific journal, but for that we would have had to continue our study, involving in particular external observers. It would certainly have taken several years of research and new funding.”

 

Now, I have no view on whether this case is a hoax or is real, but I would not personally cite the findings of this study, without clear caveats, in any material I was producing to enhance the acceptance of NDEs and OBEs as a real phenomenon. They have been sitting on this data for a long time, they have not made serious attempts to externally validate it, and have knowingly gone down the route of trying to commercialize their findings rather than the harder, less lucrative path of gaining proper scientific validation. Of course, there is a chicken and egg issue here. Establishment researchers or journals may shy away from this kind of project for fear of damaging their reputations (to my shame, I am guilty of this and do not use my real name due to the fact that I work in established science…I need to make a living!).

There is a middle path of course, and that is what the AWARE study is doing. The AWARE study focuses on many aspects of the relationship between consciousness and resuscitation, such as whether the recall of memories while technically dead enhances recovery, and the validation of OBEs is just one of many criteria being looked at. It is a valid scientific question that needs an answer. Many people claim to have OBEs during NDEs, therefore it is valid, as part of a wider study looking at what happens to the brain during resuscitation, to attempt to objectively either prove or disprove this subjective observation of seeing things outside of the body. The how or why is irrelevant to the scope of the study, but any positive observations will of course generate vigorous debate.

The methodology appears to be more rigorous than with AWARE I, so if there were two or more validated OBEs in the AWARE II study, then I hope that this time Dr Parnia will be able to present his findings at an “establishment” congress, or in a peer reviewed journal, before publishing a book containing the results. This will not by any means guarantee its acceptance by a skeptical, materialistic scientific community, but it will at least mean that it cannot dismissed out of hand as Fake News.

 

 

Procrastination or necessary gestation?

If you’ve been following the comments on my previous post “Secret Squirrel” then this will be somewhat of a repeat of some of what is contained in there.

In February the following tweet appeared on Dr Parnia’s feed:

 Parnia Tweet

 

Given that the study was supposed to complete recruitment by May of this year, one’s first reaction might be to groan “oh no, not another delay”. However, the comments that people have made regarding this announcement have probably best captured how I feel about this, namely that extending the study duration is a positive sign. Combined with the previous information that surfaced about the new drive for recruitment, this suggests just how serious the AWARE study team are about completing this ambitious study and recruiting sufficient numbers to have statistically, clinically and scientifically meaningful result.

There has also been the suggestion that they may already have one hit, and that this is providing the extra impetus, or belief in what they are doing. This is obviously pure speculation, but not without a strong rationale. When I was involved in HIV research, the organization I worked for was running a study on women, a notoriously difficult population to recruit into HIV trials, and they had fallen well behind the planned recruitment numbers. However, those who had access to the raw data, were confident the study was well powered and would produce the intended result if completed. On the basis of this, the company went ahead and extended the duration, and increased the number of recruitment sites, interestingly adding Canada, my current home. It appears that Parnia is also targeting Canada.

The AWARE II team have behaved exactly as any study team would if they believed they were pursuing an achievable objective:

1.       Incentivized existing sites to recruit more patients.

2.       Recruited additional study sites.

3.       Increased the duration of the study.

As I’ve said before, my gut feeling is that they do indeed have at least one hit, and that the immediate drive is intended to get at least one more. If that were to occur, I would expect Parnia to go public before 2020, possibly following the route he did before and publish a new book. Personally, I think it would be more beneficial if he were to announce any development like this as an interim analysis at a scientific meeting, or via some other means as this would not only serve the wider community better, but would improve recruitment of new sites.

We will see, but I doubt that we will have to wait till July 2020 before we hear more about this.

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