Life after death appears to be a very real phenomenon, at least for a few seconds at a time. That’s what a startling new study, the largest scientific survey of “near death experiences” ever conducted, appears to show — finding that nearly four of every 10 people in the study displayed at least some awareness of their surroundings even after their brains had switched off.
But the study suggests that life after death experiences might not all involve the soothing sensation of becoming engulfed in white light so often associated with “near death.” In fact, life after death experiences can be extremely terrifying, the study found.
While certain experiences are stereotypically associated with such apparent life after death periods — such as perceiving oneself heading toward a bright light — 46 percent of the patients who said they had awareness after death described phenomena not generally associated with “near death.”
Some patients said that they felt intense fear and paranoia, as if they were being persecuted by someone or something.
Only nine percent of the “aware” patients reported the “typical” life after death experiences.
The study, led by researchers at the University Southampton in the U.K. and the State University of New York at Stony Brook in the United States, covered over 2,000 patients at 15 hospitals in the U.S. and U.K. as well as in Austria, and took four years to complete.
In the life after death study, 39 percent of the subjects who were successfully resuscitated after their hearts has stopped functioning, reported at least some level of awareness during the time when their brains should have been completely shut down.
“The evidence thus far suggests that in the first few minutes after death, consciousness is not annihilated,” said Dr. Sam Parnia, the director of resuscitaton research at SUNY-Stony Brook, who spearheaded the life after death study. “Whether it fades away afterwards, we do not know, but right after death, consciousness is not lost.”
Of the 2,060 cardiac arrest patients in the “Awareness During Resuscitation” study, 330 were brought back from clinical death. Of those, 140 reported some degree of conscious awareness as doctors tried to restart their hearts.
According to Parnia, the brain will shut down within 30 seconds of when the heart stops pumping — but patients in the study who should have been conscious of nothing at all, actually had perceptions and awareness, some of them corresponding to actual, recorded events in the real world.
But many could not recall what they experienced while clinically dead, only that that they were somehow aware of something. Parnia speculated that these patients simply lost their memories of their “life after death” awareness.