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

Publication alert!

My turn to tease! Unfortunately it seems that the publication of AWARE II is not as imminent as hoped. From todays Instagram feed (btw I am Orson if you didn’t already know):

However, if they keep adding interesting stuff to their Instagram account, then maybe we won’t need to wait that long till we get something really meaty. There is obviously more than a hint in this reply that they may not have the answers we are hoping for yet though.

They’re teasing us

Given the Parnia lab seems to be trailing tidbits of its forthcoming publication of the AWARE II study on Instagram, I think it’s probably worth having a post for each teaser that contains particularly interesting content…and yesterday’s was a doozy (click pic for link).

Key quote:

We found that while the majority of the time,  the EEG data was “flatlined”, incredibly, normal or near-normal waves emerged even after 40-60 minutes of CPR. Notably, the incidence of “normal” EEG rhythms was correlated with greater probability of successfully re-starting the heart.

In summary, this expands on the findings of the AHA poster from 2019:

In particular it provides grist for the materialist mill in providing the best evidence yet that the brain is capable of conscious activity during CPR. We have discussed this many times here and while it does give ammo to the materialists, there are two things to consider that give me hope subsequent announcements will be more favourable to the cause of “believers”:

1. Previous reports of CPRIC (CPR induced consciousness) suggest that the recollections of the patients are very different in character from NDE reports. They are often traumatic and confused in nature. Parnia himself points this out in his Bigelow runner’s up prize winning essay. He also makes his position on this subject very clear…brain activity resulting from CPR does not account for NDEs. Why would he say this without concrete evidence? This brings me to my second point.

2. Two years ago I pestered the lab for clarification on this issue. I specifically asked them if they were able to correlate the NDE reports from the first AHA poster with the data from EEG and oximetry readings to determine whether these NDE reports were associated with levels capable of producing consciousness. 2 years of deafening silence. I hope very much we will get our answer to this question in the paper…it would seem to me that Parnia knows the answer or he would be less assertive in his position.

Keep coming back here for key updates and discussion. Looks like the next few weeks are going to be busy…let’s hope it doesn’t end in an anti-climax and the paper is a complete nothing-burger.

“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?

Third Phase of AWARE II

It looks like the post docs and other next generation of researchers in Sam Parnia’s lab have finally taken control of our favourite ER doctor’s social media accounts. Let’s face it, it needed to happen…he was averaging about 1 Tweet every 6 months…or maybe he has been abducted by TPTB for threatening to undermine their materialist domination of modern culture and society and his juniors have filled the void. Either way, maybe now we will have something to talk about more often. (thanks Snezna for the tip off).

So from the latest post, an Instagram video by Tori Williams, one of his researchers, we can see in the side bar that it is mentioned the AWARE studies are entering ”phase III”. It seems they are expanding the remit of the study into understanding the effects of CPR on consciousness. One wonders what this subtle change in emphasis in the study is due to, and what it means. It definitely feels like a slight shift in the materialist direction. Rather than seeking to understand what is happening to the conscious while the heart stops (and CPR was coincident to that) they are now looking at the physiological effect of CPR, and how that effects consciousness. Previously, the assumption, indeed assertion, was that it didn’t. Is this because they haven’t had anything to give them reason to continue pursuing the non-materialist explanation, or are they under pressure to anchor their research in territory that is more acceptable to the academic establishment in which they reside?

New Research From The Parnia Lab

Thanks to SeanD for spotting this. Despite googling for Parnia every day, I still find I miss things! Also, apologies for the long time between posts but we recently bought a new home and it has needed a complete renovation which has sucked up all my time. What a waste of life choosing shower suites, flooring and kitchens is when there are much deeper things to be contemplating! Anyway, below is a link to a radio discussion that occurred in the past week or so in Australia which featured a couple of experiencers and Dr Sam Parnia.

Link to radio discussion on NDEs

Dr Parnia discusses two studies. Firstly he mentions AWARE I which, he once again asserts, validates NDEs. The second study he mentions is one that he has been undertaking the past couple of years as part of his “Survivorship & Psychological Wellbeing After Cardiac Arrest” research program (link to description of program). From the interview this appears to be a descriptive study that assesses various aspects of post CA experience, with NDEs being just one factor. Importantly, it is has been conducted across a number of different countries which include different cultural and religious influences. Information about the number and type of NDEs reported from non-Western countries has been poor in the past, and it looks like Dr Parnia is doing his best to address this gap in the data.

The two pieces of information that he shares with us are as follows:

  1. 11% of people who survive CA have an NDE. This is almost identical to reports from previous studies, however, as I point out in my book this most likely reflects the age group of the majority of people who have experienced CAs, which tends to be people who are much older. It is very likely that Sam will get enough data to create a statistical analysis of changes in rate of NDE reports with age. As I point out in my book (link to book), data to date suggests that the younger the age of the experiencer, the higher the chance of recalling an NDE, and changes in memory function alone would not account for the large differences observed. Anyway…think I’ve banged that drum enough! I will rewrite that section of my book including other suggestions for causes from contributors to this blog. He makes a bit of a blooper when he says the fact that 11% of people have NDEs means that 850 million people have had NDEs. That might be true if the entire population of planet earth had experienced a CA, but that is not the case.
  2. He differentiates NDEs from semi conscious recollections. He describes in particular how some patients who wake up and try to pull ventilators out are forcibly restrained by doctors. They then recount these experiences as being attacked by demons. He makes the suggestion that this may account for the hellish NDEs that are sometimes reported. I think Howard Storm might have something to say about that!

It is very important that Dr Parnia is doing this kind of qualitative research alongside the AWARE II and hypothermic studies since it really closes the loop on our understanding. When (not if) he produces the validated OBE hits that prove NDEs are real, he will be able to also provide better information about the nature of those experiences than may have been produced before. He has a scientific approach to this that will hopefully create a more consistent understanding of what is reported in NDEs.

It has to be said, he really is the world leader in this field now, and may one day be regarded in the same light as past heroes of science and medicine who made discoveries that forever changed our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. That of course will rely on him producing the vital smoking gun evidence of scientifically validated OBEs.

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.

My NDE Book Published (Again)

After I received really positive feedback from the few that had the chance to read my book when it was briefly available in January, and on thinking harder on the reasons I am publishing this book, I decided that I want it out there now. There have been some revisions, particularly around the evidence supporting the veracity of OBEs part, and my thoughts on AWARE II. So why have I wobbled back on the side of publishing?

Firstly – on balance I believe we have enough evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that OBEs are actually the conscious leaving the body, and that they prove other aspects of NDEs. I explain why in the book.

Secondly, it could be a very long period of time before Dr Parnia publishes the data from AWARE II that he presented at AHA, or publishes anything else on this subject. This leads into the main reason.

Thirdly, and in my mind of most importance, I present evidence to support the possibility that the eternal aspect of the consciousness may die in some people during this life. This is not click bait. I currently work in Alzheimer’s research, and I have studied the evidence on changes in memory over time and they do not account for the huge drop off in NDEs from children to elderly adults. I find the prospect that some, maybe the majority, may lose their eternal future, deeply concerning, and something that should be discussed much more widely.

That is why I am publishing now. I feel I have a responsibility to share this last observation because if it is true, there is nothing more important to learn about, and try to avoid. I won’t debate this here now, I would rather people bought the book, internalized what I write, consider the evidence objectively, then come back here. I will create a separate blog post in the future to get into this in more detail.

For forum regulars, I have included the top 10 contributors over the years in the acknowledgements. Also, if you do buy it, and like, please give a really positive review (just to mention, anything less than 4 stars is regarded as negative by potential readers). Please also write something on your local Amazon store.

Lastly, I have obviously read this many times, and while I would obviously be biased, I find it very strange that each time I read, I actually find myself being impacted by what I have written, despite the fact I wrote it in the first place! It has shaken me up to come to an understanding that is of such vital consequence to the whole of humanity. I really cannot think of anything more important.

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.


Premature Publication

In my impatience with the progress of the AWARE studies, my frustration at the lack of clarification from Sam Parnia about the auditory reports he presented in November 2019, and my eagerness to get my “message” out there to coincide with the “Surviving Death” series, I hit the publish button on my book too soon. Having reread it again, the book relies on more convincing data from the AWARE studies to really stand on its own, so I have unpublished it.

What did frustrate me a little was some communication I received on the issue of my bringing “God” into the discussion, and how it reduced my credibility. I go with the evidence, and NDE reports include encounters with a supreme Being Of Light that many describe as God. That is a fact, and to ignore it is to ignore evidence on one of the most important questions man has.

I am going to be true to my word and go with the evidence now. To date the AWARE studies have failed to provide proper scientific validation of OBEs, and until they do my book will go back on ice.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: