Scientists discover the mind still works after the body shows no sign of life and reveal people have heard their own death announced by medics.
A person’s consciousness continues to work after the body has died, study finds
Someone has died may even hear their own death being announced by medics
Researchers say people’s recollections have been verified by medical staff
Time of death is called when heart stops beating, cutting off blood to brain
Cerebral cortex flatlines and within 2-20 seconds no brainwaves are detected
This sparks the death of brain cells but this can take hours after .
Some report having seen light at the end of a tunnel, while others claim to have floated above their body, watching as medics save their lives.
But the reality of near-death experiences has always been debated.
Now scientists have discovered that a person’s consciousness continues to work after the body has stopped showing signs of life – meaning they have awareness of their own death.
And there is evidence to suggest someone who has died may even hear their own death being announced by medics.
A team from New York University Langone School of Medicine investigated the very same question through twin studies in Europe and the US of people who have suffered cardiac arrest and ‘come back’ to life, in the largest study of its kind.
Study author Dr Sam Parnia told Live Science: ‘They’ll describe watching doctors and nurses working and they’ll describe having awareness of full conversations, of visual things that were going on, that would otherwise not be known to them.’
He said these recollections were then verified by medical and nursing staff who reported their patients, who were technically dead, could remember details of what they were saying.
Medically speaking, doctors define death based on when the heart no longer beats, which then immediately cuts off blood supply to the brain.
‘Technically, that’s how you get the time of death – it’s all based on the moment when the heart stops,’ explained Dr Sam Parnia.
‘Once that happens, blood no longer circulates to the brain, which means brain function halts almost instantaneously.
‘You lose all your brain stem reflexes – your gag reflex, your pupil reflex, all that is gone.’
The brain’s cerebral cortex – which is responsible for thinking and processing information from the five senses – also instantly flatlines, says Dr Parnia. This means that within 2 to 20 seconds, no brainwaves will be detected on an electric monitor.
This sparks a chain reaction of cellular processes that will result in the death of brain cells. However, this can take hours after the heart has stopped, he explained.
And performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) that hasn’t successfully revived a patient can still result in sending some blood to the brain – about 15 percent of what it requires to function normally.
But brain cell death is still happening, just at a slightly slower rate, he said.