Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Scientific perspective on NDEs

I stumbled upon this article unexpectedly and thought that it was worth linking.

I haven't studied it in-depth, but it does seem to regard the near-death experience as a unique form of consciousness. A number of patients were interviewed in a clinical setting for this study, and researchers recorded a number of brief observations similar (in some respects) to those made the self-selected experiencers who publish on Internet forums like NDERF.org.

(Hypothetical question: would an ND experiencer be more inclined to tell the "whole story" in a clinical setting to a trained observer, or on a semi-open forum that is perceived as being more "welcoming"?  Or, are the majority of NDERF.org respondents embellishing and confabulating their accounts?)

The most interesting observation--to me--is this:

The finding that conscious awareness may be present during CA is intriguing and supports other recent studies that have indicated consciousness may be present in patients despite clinically undetectable consciousness.

The reason that it interests me is that in a large number of NDE accounts, cardiac arrest is the trigger that launches consciousness from the body, something that the researchers seem to implicitly recognize. It serves as a boundary between physical and non-physical consciousness.  In plain English, the study is admitting that "CA patients really are conscious, even though we can't measure this with our instruments."


  1. Hello there :)

    I'll have to read this new release by Parnia et al carefully so thanks for posting it. As a fellow Brit, he's someone I've been following for quite a while.

    Years ago, it seemed like he had the right idea and was open-minded about NDEs and their explanations. Then about three years ago he did an interview on Skeptiko and it came across like he was more inclined to disproving the claims.

    At first skim, it looks like a different approach has been taken when compared to the Alex Tsakiris interview/s.

    With regards to your questions, I suspect a neutral, clinical interview process will eventually yield more faithful, accurate recollections of NDEs than partisan interviewers of any side. Of course, the critical terms there are 'neutral' and 'clinical' when so many proponents and detractors have a built-in bias.

    1. The following occurred to me after I posted this entry: science cannot measure consciousness, only detect the electrical activity of consciousness as it interacts with the brain. Paradoxically, NDEs are a bit like dreams: we can remember them only if the experience is (subsequently) recorded (downloaded) in the brain. So, consciousness is the driver, the experiences, and can't be "seen" or measured (or even explained); but nothing can be remembered unless it physically registers in the brain. Such is the dual nature of human consciousness and why we may not be able to "prove" NDEs any time soon.

      Anyone can experiment with this harmlessly by paying attention to the effort that's needed to remember a dream upon waking up. You first realize that you've had a dream... And then you start pulling and assembling the threads of the dream narrative into your waking consciousness before they evaporate. I believe that you are actually transferring information to your physical memory during these moments.