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

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.

My book on NDEs and the AWARE studies

I have finally finished my new book. It has been through a few rounds of editing with professionals and I am happy with it but would love to have your opinions so that I can improve it still further. I uploaded it on Amazon today. The Kindle version is available now globally. The paperback is available in the US now but might take a day or so to appear in other markets. Other eBook store versions will appear over the weekend in new posts. I have currently priced it as cheap as possible for a week or two specifically so that any who comes to this site regularly might buy a copy before I add a few dollars so I can hopefully start recouping some of the costs.

If you have enjoyed my posts over the years, then I think you will enjoy it.

A few points:

  1. If you buy it, thank you. Please provide feedback in one of two ways:
    • If you like it, then please please write a review on the amazon website and give it lots of stars!
    • If you don’t like it, I would be grateful that rather than slating it on the sales page for the book which will pretty much kill it, and be somewhat frustrating after all the work I have put in, please provide honest feedback to me via a PM on here, and I will see if it is something that I can address. I will be taking all feedback and doing a final version in February, so constructive criticism is very welcome, and if there are any inaccuracies, please let me know.
  2. While I do discuss “God” or the Being Of Light, this book is completely ecumenical. I have stripped out any references or preferences to specific religions except for a short passage for fellow Christians in the appendix.
  3. If you do enjoy it then please recommend it to friends and family. The paperback should be ready soon and while for the next week it will only be available on Amazon, I will be widening availability to all on line bookstores within a couple of weeks and posting on here when that process is complete.
  4. I’ve realised one thing I will be changing, and that is in the acknowledgements. There have been some really helpful contributions from people on this site, so I will include something on that in the opening.

Surviving Death – thoughts

So today saw the arrival of the new Netflix series, Surviving Death. I was able to have a good look at it and here are my thoughts on the entire series…yes, I know it is only 9.30am UK time, 1 hour 30 minutes after it was launched, but believe me, I have seen enough to form an opinion.

Episode 1 was on NDEs. It was pretty good. There was Bruce Greyson, Peter Fenwick, some material from the Pam Reynolds NDE among other good stuff. It certainly presented the subject in a reasonable and credible way, and if that was the first time someone came across NDEs, it would certainly make them think. However, there was nothing on any of the clinical studies looking into it. No mention of Sam Parnia’s work (if he was asked to be involved, he was wise to decline). A small mention of the arguments around drugs or hypoxia, but nothing that would float our boats. In truth, there was absolutely nothing new on NDEs. Nada, but it was a good show.

Episodes 2-4- I looked at the episode descriptions and they were all on paranormal experiences around mediumship etc. I skimmed through the shows and didn’t see anything that would interest me. If anything, unfortunately, many will find it off-putting. I have a very specific viewpoint on the subject, and it comes firstly from my experience of growing up with a medium in the family…so I know it is real, and secondly from my Christian perspective, and some experiences that I have had that make me feel it is something that we should avoid like the plague. Now, I am aware there are some who cannot avoid it since it comes to them, but I still prefer to steer clear of it.

Final Episode was on reincarnation. Again, interesting, and there is evidence to support it, but it doesn’t interest me sufficiently to watch an hour of it. This is the life we are living, we should make the most of it and live in the way we are supposed to. Simple stuff really.

Anyway, other than the first episode, I wouldn’t really recommend the series to anyone who is serious about the subject of NDEs. What it has done though is get my thumb out of my exterior and caused me to finish off the book I have been writing on NDEs over the Christmas period. The cover is now on the front page of this site, and it will be available in the next day or so as I make a few last minute changes.

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.

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!.

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