HEALTH AND SCIENCE

Life does flash before our eyes when we die

For the first time ever, scientists have recorded the activity of a dying human brain.

In Summary

•For the first time ever, scientists have recorded the activity of a dying human brain.

•The brain wave patterns were similar to those occurring during dreaming, memory or meditation.

Image: Courtesy: Sciencephoto.com

Well, life does really flash before our eyes, moments before we die.

A new study that supports this and was published at the Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience suggests that your brain may remain active and coordinated during and after the transition to death, and may even be programmed to orchestrate the whole ordeal.

Here, researchers at the University of Tartu, Estonia accidentally recorded the activity of a dying brain of an 87-year-old patient who developed epilepsy.

This was actually the first time ever, that scientists recorded the activity of a dying human brain.

Image: Courtesy: dreamstime.com

They used continuous electroencephalography (EEG) to detect seizures and treat the patient.

During the recording, the patient had a heart attack and passed away.

The brain wave patterns were similar to those occurring during dreaming, memory or meditation.

“We measured 900 seconds of brain activity around the time of death and set a specific focus to investigate what happened in the 30 seconds before and after the heart stopped beating,” said Dr Ajmal Zemmar, a neurosurgeon at the University of Louisville, US, who organized the study.

“Just before and after the heart stopped working, we saw changes in a specific band of neural oscillations, so-called gamma oscillations, but also in others such as delta, theta, alpha and beta oscillations.”

brain
brain
Image: OZONE

Brain oscillations are commonly known as ‘brain waves’.

These are patterns of rhythmic brain activity normally present in living human brains.

“Through generating oscillations involved in memory retrieval, the brain may be playing the last recall of important life events just before we die, similar to the ones reported in near-death experiences,” Zemmar said.

“These findings challenge our understanding of when exactly life ends and generate important subsequent questions, such as those related to the timing of organ donation.”

This unexpected event allowed the scientists to record the activity of a dying human brain for the first time.

Nonetheless, Zemmar plans to investigate more cases and sees these results as a source of hope.

“As a neurosurgeon, I deal with loss at times. It is indescribably difficult to deliver the news of death to distraught family members,” he said.

“Something we may learn from this research is: although our loved ones have their eyes closed and are ready to leave us to rest, their brains may be replaying some of the nicest moments they experienced in their lives.”

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