Oh life! You’re born and grow up a little, fall in love with a person (or fish), create a few little people, and then before you know it, it’s time for the next part: death. The inevitable demise of our existence.
There are different ways you can die. It’s usually caused by heart disease or cancer, but about 600 people suffer from autonomic dyspnoea each year.
However it happens, at some point you will experience medical death, which is like life, but without breathing and blood circulation.
In other words, it is the beginning of the passage from this life to the next.
For most people, death is not entirely immediate.
What can modern science tell us about the experience of those final moments?
In the final stages of approaching death, people are often numb, so we usually imagine the experience as a sleepy, unconscious disappearance from life.
But some tests tell a very different story.
In 2013, scientists University of Michigan They measured the brain activity of lab rats when they died.
And something very interesting happened.
After the rats suffered a heart attack –No heartbeat or breathing-, their brains showed increased global activity, with levels of synchronized lower gamma waves across the brain than in normal awake states.
And, incredibly, that specific type of brain activity is linked People’s emotional perception in previous studies.
In other words, those rats may have experienced Something When they were between clinical death and complete brain death.
The experiment challenged the assumption that the brain is inactive at the time of death.
Instead, prolonged unconsciousness was preceded by heightened awareness, and he asked: What do mice experience when they die? Could the same be true for humans?
Humans have larger and more complex brains than mice, but a more interesting experiment was conducted Imperial College In London in 2018, it shed some light on what it’s like to die in humans.
Scientists wanted to explore the similarities between the two different phenomena.
On the one hand, there are near-death experiences, or NDEsHallucinations are experienced by about 20% of those resuscitated after medical death.
On the other hand, hallucinations caused by the psychedelic drug TMD (reliably produces a broad spectrum of subjective effects on human brain functions, including perception, affect, and cognition).
So they gave study subjects a dose of DMT, and when they returned to reality, asked them to describe their experiences using a checklist commonly used to assess near-death experiences.
They were surprised to find an incredible amount of common ground.
Both NDE and DMT experiences involve feelings of “transcending time and space” and “oneness with nearby objects and people.”
The near-death experience became akin to a powerful hallucination.
When we consider death, we think of it as a painful process. But science asks: What is psychedelic?
We asked Dr Chris Timmerman, who led the research at Imperial College London. What can this test say about death?.
“I think the main lesson of the research is that we can see death in life and life experiences,” he said.
“What we know now is that there seems to be an increase in electrical activity.
“Those gamma waves are very pronounced and can cause near-death experiences.
“There are also specific areas of the brain, such as the medial temporal lobes — areas responsible for memory, sleep and even learning — that may be associated with those experiences.
“In a way, our brain somehow simulates the shape of reality.”
around 20% of people declared clinically dead and alive report NDEs.
Do all experience but only a few remember or are these experiences rare?
“It’s a strong possibility that the deficit in recall is due to a variety of factors,” Timmerman explained.
“In our experience with psychedelic DMT, we’ve found that when we overdose on them, part of the experience is forgotten.
“What I think is that the experience is so new that it’s indescribable or difficult to put into words.
“When an experience exceeds the ability to describe it with language, it is difficult to remember.
“But some people may not enjoy it.”
What additional research will help our understanding of death?
“It’s really interesting what’s going on with brain scans these days and how we can figure out what’s going on in the brain and how it goes back to experience,” he replied.
“The scans are done for people that you can replay, if they’re watching a movie, what kind of movie they’re watching.
“So, at some point our brain imaging techniques will become so advanced that we can read people’s minds, so that we can get closer to understanding what brain mechanisms underlie these extraordinary and extraordinary experiences.”
The science of death is a pretty bleak landscape, but what we already know paints a surprisingly hopeful picture.
For example, we know that people who have near-death experiences often report feelings of calmness and peace and show lasting reductions in death-related stress.
We also know that NDEs are largely described as painless, meaning that the heightened awareness we may experience at death is painless.
And maybe a little fun.
Research also shows that people tend to lose their feelings in a certain order.
First hunger and thirst, then speech and sight.
Hearing and touch last longerThat means many people can hear and feel their loved ones in their final moments, even if they appear unconscious.
And recent brain scans of a dying epileptic patient showed activity related to memory and dreams, leading to speculation that there might be some truth to “life flashing before his eyes.”
Finally, we know from these experiments that the near-death experience may involve heightened consciousness, perhaps even hallucinations. One last psychedelic trip before anything else.
“In a society like ours, where we tend to deny death and try to sweep it under the rug, I think that’s one of the best lessons that psychedelic research can teach us: How can we incorporate it into our lives?”, Timmerman concluded.
Eventually, we’re all going to die. But these experiments show that the transition between life and death can be more experiential, emotional, and psychic than we expect.
We are programmed as animals to fear our own mortality, but a deeper understanding of death can help us relax a bit.
Those last moments won’t be scary. Only a part An inevitable journey into the unknown, perhaps painless and potentially psychotic.
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