Near-death experience, out-of-body experiences

Researchers Study Near-Death Experiences for the Truth About Dying

September 15, 2008 11:32 AM
by Josh Katz
A new study will look deeper into near-death experiences than any other, in an attempt to learn more about the age-old question: what happens when we die?

AWARE Looks at Near-Death Experiences

The Human Consciousness Project at the University of Southampton in the U.K. is initiating AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation), the largest study in the world to ever examine the near-death experience (NDE). Dr. Sam Parnia, Dr. Peter Fenwick and Professors Stephen Holgate and Robert Peveler head the study, which will branch out their research to other centers in the U.K., Europe and North America, following a “successful 18-month pilot phase at selected hospitals in the UK,” according to Science Daily.    

Most doctors now see death as “more of a process than an event,” LiveScience claims. Death is generally characterized by a halt to breathing, heartbeat and brain activity.    

But, Parnia states, “During a cardiac arrest, all three criteria of death are present,” according to Science Daily. “There then follows a period of time, which may last from a few seconds to an hour or more, in which emergency medical efforts may succeed in restarting the heart and reversing the dying process.”

Recent studies have indicated that 10–20 of people who survive after cardiac arrest say that they experienced “lucid, well-structured thought processes, reasoning, memories and sometimes detailed recall of events during their encounter with death,” LiveScience reports.

Related Topic: ‘Out-of-body’ experiences, NDEs, and sleeping

Science Daily also reported in March 2007 on a study that associated “out-of-body” experiences with certain sleeping patterns. Dr. Kevin Nelson and his team at the University of Kentucky suggested that, “an out-of-body experience is statistically as likely to occur during a near death experience as it is to occur during the transition between wakefulness and sleep.”    

After interviewing people who have had an out-of-body experience during a near death experience, the researchers found that these people were also more likely to “have had some sort of REM intrusion in their lifetime, where instead of passing directly between the REM sleep state and wakefulness, the brain switch blends these states into one another.” Essentially, the study connected the way the body responds during certain stages of sleep to the chances of having an out-of body experience.

Background: Drs. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and Raymond Moody

Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who passed away in August 2004, was a psychiatrist who conducted extensive research into the transition to death, and also believed in the idea of life after death. She gained prestige for her 1969 book “On Death and Dying,” which helped to transform the way people study, and speak about, death.

But many of her colleagues lost faith in her when she began to delve into the science behind afterlife. She interviewed thousands of people who were pronounced dead then resuscitated, and noted some commonalities. They said that their experiences “were remarkably free of pain; that they were aware of precisely where they were at death and of seeming to float out of their bodies; that they seemed not to be suddenly alone but still with family members or friends; that they felt as if they were guided to a place of psychic energy, light, love and warmth greater than any they knew in life; and that they did not want to return,” according to The New York Times.

In 1990, Kübler-Ross said, “I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no death the way we understood it. The body dies, but not the soul.”

Raymond Moody, a doctor with a Ph.D. in psychology, however, was the first person to popularize the phrase “near-death experience” when he wrote about a number of experiences typically reported by the subjects he interviewed. In The Skeptics Dictionary, Robert Todd Carroll, who taught philosophy at Sacramento City College, describes the common features mentioned by Moody: “According to Moody, the typical NDE includes a buzzing or ringing noise, a sense of blissful peace, a feeling of floating out of one’s body and observing it from above, moving through a tunnel into a bright light, meeting dead people (saints, Christ, angels, Muhammad); seeing one’s life pass before one’s eyes; and finding it all so wonderful that one doesn’t want to return to one’s body.”

But, as the title of his Web site suggests, Carroll is skeptical about the concept of near-death experiences: “At this point in our knowledge, to claim that NDEs provide strong evidence that the soul exists independently of the body, and that there is an afterlife awaiting that soul that just happens to coincide with the beliefs and wishes of the near-death experiment, seems premature.”

Reference: ‘Passage’


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