Remember how, in the movies, there’s a scene depicting your life flashing before your eyes in a near-death experience? Well… it looks like it actually might be true! New data suggests that life may actually flash before our eyes as we die, according to an “accidental” discovery. Researchers were measuring the brainwaves of an 87-year-old patient who had developed epilepsy when the man suddenly suffered a fatal heart attack. During this, scientists were able to get an unexpected recording of a dying brain! What they found was shocking… Thirty seconds before and after he suffered the heart attack, the man’s brainwaves followed the same patterns as dreaming or recalling memories.
The team recorded their findings in their study, published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience on Tuesday. Dr. Ajmal Zemmar, a co-author of the study, told BBC, “This was actually totally by chance, we did not plan to do this experiment or record these signals.” Dr. Zemmar, now a neurosurgeon at the University of Louisville, noted that it was impossible to tell what kind of memory recall the person had at the time. “If I were to jump to the philosophical realm, I would speculate that if the brain did a flashback, it would probably like to remind you of good things, rather than the bad things,” he said. “But what’s memorable would be different for every person. This could possibly be a last recall of memories that we’ve experienced in life, and they replay through our brain in the last seconds before we die. I think there’s something mystical and spiritual about this whole near-death experience,” Dr. Zemmar said. “And findings like this – it’s a moment that scientists live for.”
Dr. Zemmar and his team of colleagues took five and a half years to publish the study in part as they were waiting to see if any other similar cases cropped up, but were unsuccessful. They did find one similar study on rats in which scientists induced cardiac arrest while measuring their brain activity. Similar to the 87-year-old man’s case, researchers reported high levels of brainwaves at the point of death until 30 seconds after the rats’ hearts stopped beating.
“It is very hard to make claims with one case, especially when the case has bleeding, seizures, and swelling,” Dr. Zemmar told INSIDER. “But what we can claim is that we have signals just before death and just after the heart stops like those that happen in the healthy human when they dream or memorize or meditate.” Dr. Sam Parnia, (who was not part of the study) an associate professor at NYU Langone Health and author of What Happens When We Die? told the outlet, “This study appears to confirm this by identifying a potential brain marker of lucidity at the end of life. It may be that as multiple parts of the brain are shutting down with death, this leads to disinhibition of other areas that help humans gain insights into other dimensions of reality, that are otherwise less accessible.”