Lucid dying: Patients recall death experiences during CPR
One in five people who survive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) after cardiac arrest may describe lucid experiences of death that occurred while they were seemingly unconscious and on the brink of death, a new study shows. This study was presented during the resuscitation science symposium at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2022 on Sunday, Nov. 6.
Survivors reported having unique lucid experiences, including a perception of separation from the body, observing events without pain or distress, and a meaningful evaluation of life, including of their actions, intentions and thoughts toward others. The researchers found these experiences of death to be different from hallucinations, delusions, illusions, dreams or CPR-induced consciousness.
The work also included tests for hidden brain activity. A key finding was the discovery of spikes of brain activity, including so-called gamma, delta, theta, alpha and beta waves up to an hour into CPR. Some of these brain waves normally occur when people are conscious and performing higher mental functions, including thinking, memory retrieval, and conscious perception.
Identifying measureable electrical signs of lucid and heightened brain activity, together with similar stories of recalled death experiences, suggests that the human sense of self and consciousness, much like other biological body functions, may not stop completely around the time of death.
These lucid experiences cannot be considered a trick of a disordered or dying brain, but rather a unique human experience that emerges on the brink death. As the brain is shutting down, many of its natural braking systems are released. Known as disinhibition, this provides access to the depths of a person's consciousness, including stored memories, thoughts from early childhood to death, and other aspects of reality. While no one knows the evolutionary purpose of this phenomenon, it clearly reveals "intriguing questions about human consciousness, even at death.
The study authors conclude that although studies to date have not been able to absolutely prove the reality or meaning of patients' experiences and claims of awareness in relation to death, it has been impossible to disclaim them either. They say recalled experience surrounding death now merits further genuine empirical investigation without prejudice.
Lucid dying: Patients recall death experiences during CPR; JOURNAL- Circulation MEETING; American Heart Association Scientific Sessions.