Results from the AWARE Study were released yesterday and the evidence of continuing consciousness is compelling.
The largest ever medical study into near-death and out-of-body experiences has discovered that some awareness may continue even after the brain has shut down completely.
It is a controversial subject which has, until recently, been treated with widespread scepticism.
But scientists at the University of Southampton have spent four years examining more than 2,000 people who suffered cardiac arrests at 15 hospitals in the UK, US and Austria.
And they found that nearly 40 per cent of people who survived described some kind of ‘awareness’ during the time when they were clinically dead before their hearts were restarted.
Participants displayed a range of perceptions during periods of when the heart and brain were completely shut down.
The results showed that 39 per cent of patients who survived cardiac arrest described a perception of awareness but did not have explicit recall.
A total of 46 per cent experienced a broad range of mental recollections, nine per cent had experiences compatible with NDEs and two per cent exhibited full awareness compatible with OBEs with explicit recall of “seeing” and “hearing” events.
And one case was validated and timed using auditory stimuli during cardiac arrest.
Most compelling was a social worker who described observing efforts to revive him from a corner of the room for several minutes, with tremendous detail.
Dr Sam Parnia, who led the study, told the Daily Telegraph: "We know the brain can't function when the heart has stopped beating. But in this case, conscious awareness appears to have continued for up to three minutes into the period when the heart wasn't beating, even though the brain typically shuts down within 20 to 30 seconds after the heart has stopped."
"The man described everything that had happened in the room, but importantly, he heard two bleeps from a machine that makes a noise at three minute intervals. So we could time how long the experience lasted for," he added.
"He seemed very credible and everything that he said had happened to him had actually happened."
The results of this study are certain to be controversial.
The study supports thousands of anecdotal accounts over the years of people who say that they had an out of body experience when they “died” in which they could witness their environment during the time they were clinically deceased. However, anecdotal evidence is not scientific evidence, and the newest study would have to be replicated over time before science could determine if indeed there is evidence of life after death or if this study is an anomaly.
With findings as controversial as these, there are bound to be skeptics who will question the controls used during the study. One criticism that has been levied is that the study subjects were recounting their own experiences and those memories could have been altered in between the time they were resuscitated and the time they participated in the study. For example, once they were brought back, they could have heard snippets of conversations in the minutes immediately following that led them to an understanding of what had just happened, and their brain processed that information and stored it. That data could have easily turned into a “memory” of being resuscitated when actually they heard the information after they were brought back but were still semi-unconscious due to being medicated.
In a press conference in 2008, Dr. Parnia outlined the goals and methodology of the AWARE Study.
Alex Tsakaris interviewed Dr. Parnia and asked him some challenging questions about his framework and viewpoint.