M.B.B.S. (Cey), M.Sc. (Psych.) Col.
O.A.C.C.P.P. (Can), C.Psych.(Can)
Near death experience is the reported memory of all impressions during a special state of consciousness, such as out of body experience, pleasant feelings, seeing a tunnel, light, deceased relatives or a life review.
Psychologists defined the near death experience as the time of clinical death where a patient is unconscious due to insufficient blood supply to the brain because of inadequate blood circulation, breathing or both. In this situation, if resuscitation is not started with in 5-10 minutes irreparable damage is done to the brain and the patient will die.
Some people report near death experience (NDE) after a life threatening crisis. A longitudinal study was conducted in Netherlands between 2001 - 2009 which included 344 cardiac arrest patients who were successfully resuscitated. The study was conducted among two groups, one group of cardiac patients who had a cardiac arrest with a near death experience (62) or 18%, and in the other group of cardiac patients who did not have a near death experience. This research studied the medical, pharmacological and psychological experiences among the two groups. The occurrence of the near death experience was not associated with duration of cardiac arrest or unconsciousness, medication, or fear of death before cardiac arrest. Significantly, in this study, more patients who had a near death experience, especially deep experience, died within 30 days after resuscitation.
The researchers did not know, why so few cardiac patients reported near death experience after resuscitation, but they thought it could be explained by the age of the patients, memory power and brain damage during the cardiac arrest some people who have survived a life threatening crisis report an extraordinary experience. Near death experience occurs with increasing frequency because of improved survival rates resulting from modern techniques of ressuscitation.more
The content of near death experience and the effects on patients seem similar world wide, across all cultures and times. The subjective nature and absence of a frame of reference for this experience lead to individual, cultural, and religious factors determining the vocabulary used to describe and interpret the experience
Near death experiences are reported in many circumstances:
* Cardiac arrest in myocardial infarction (clinical death) Shock due to loss of blood in child birth or due to surgeries
* Shock due to electrocution, allergies (anaphylactic shock) or shock due to severe infections
* Attempted suicide, near drowning, serious traffic accidents, mountaineering accidents or in shipwreck situations.
Such experiences are also reported by people with severe depression or without clear causes in fully conscious people. Several theories on the origin of near death experience have been proposed. Some Psychologists think the experience is caused by changes in the brain, such as brain cells dying due to lack of oxygen and nutrients.
Another theory is that the near death experience is due to changing state of consciousness, in which perception (feelings), cognitive functioning, emotion, and sense of identity, functioning independently from normal body waking consciousness or dissociation from the body.
Patients who have undergone (survived) a near dear death experience has transformational process in their lives so they do not have fear of death and they accept any subsequent eventualities in a very rational way. Similar experiences to near-death can occur during the terminal phase of an illness, and are called death-bed wishes.
Good short-term memory seems to be essential for remembering near death experiences. Patients with memory deflects after prolong resuscitation reported fewer experiences.
Similar to near death experience can be induced through electrical stimulation of some parts of the brain (temporal lobe and the hippocampus of the brain), with high carbon dioxide in the blood, during training of fighter pilots (rapid acceleration when the brain does not have enough oxygen), and in drug addicts (specially with LSD & Ketamine). These induced experiences can consist of unconsciousness, out of body experiences, and seeing of light flashes of recollection from the past.
These recollections, however, consist of fragmented and random memories unlike the panoramic life-review that occurs in near death experiences. Further, transformational processes with changing life insight and disappearance of fear of death are not reported after induced experiences.
The most important point to consider here is that the clear consciousness outside one’s body the person experiencing at the moment, when the brain no logger functions (flat EEG recording).
The same happens when there is cardiac arrest (flat ECG), and when there is flat EEG (brain is not functioning).
Furthermore, blind people (blind from birth), describers similar out-of-body experience during cardiac arrest or when the brain is not functioning (flat ECG & EEG).
More research should be conducted to explain scientifically the phenomena of near death experiences. It should be focused on specific elements such as out-of-body experience and transcendence.