People In Comas Showed ‘Conscious-Like’ Brain Activity As They Died, Study Says
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An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian:
Some recall bright lights at the end of a tunnel, feeling the presence of loved ones or floating above their body after a near-death experience. Now, scientists say they have captured “conscious-like” brain activity in dying patients in findings that give new insights into the process of death. The study used data from four patients who had died in hospital while their brains were being monitored using EEG recordings because they had previously suffered suspected seizures. All four of the patients were comatose and unresponsive and had been deemed beyond medical help. With their families’ permission, life support had been withdrawn and they had subsequently suffered cardiac arrest and died.
The scientists retrospectively analyzed the brain activity data in the moments after life support was withdrawn until the patients’ deaths. Upon removal of ventilator support, two of the patients showed an increase in heart rate along with a surge of gamma wave activity, considered the fastest brain activity and associated with consciousness. The activity was detected in the so-called hot zone, an area in the back of the brain linked to conscious brain activity. This area has been correlated with dreaming, visual hallucinations in epilepsy, and altered states of consciousness in other brain studies. The other two patients did not display the same increase in heart rate or brain activity, according to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Scientists said it was impossible to know exactly what the brain activity might correspond to as a subjective experience.