Speed Reads

a light at the end of the tunnel

Study on near-death experiences finds evidence of awareness after brain shuts down

While conducting the largest medical study ever on near-death and out-of-body experiences, British researchers found several participants who recalled having awareness of their surroundings even after being clinically dead.

For four years, scientists at England's University of Southampton studied more than 2,000 people in the UK, United States, and Austria who had suffered cardiac arrest and lived to talk about it. They discovered that almost 40 percent of those survivors felt "awareness" during the time doctors had said they were dead. While many could not remember any specific details, one in five said they felt a sense of peacefulness, while almost one-third felt that time started to pass either faster or slower.

A 57-year-old social worker from Southampton told researchers he could remember the feeling of leaving his body and watching from the corner as doctors worked to revive him. He was considered dead for three minutes, but could recall details about the nursing staff and how the machines in the room sounded. He described hearing two separate distinct noises from one machine, which makes that sound in three-minute intervals; that told researchers how long the man's experience lasted.

"We know the brain can't function when the heart has stopped beating," Dr. Sam Parnia, the leader of the study, told Britain's the Telegraph. "But in this case, conscious awareness appears to have continued for up to three minutes into the period when the heart wasn't beating, even though the brain typically shuts down within 20-30 seconds after the heart has stopped."