Near-Death Experience is ‘all in the mind’

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Near-death experiences are simply “manifestations of normal brain functions gone awry”, researchers say. 

A vision of a light at the end of a dark tunnel is sometimes reported by people who have near-death experiences, but studies suggest the sight may be the result of oxygen deprivation [Credit: VinnyPrime/Stock.xchng]

Psychologists from Edinburgh University and the Medical Research Council in Cambridge reviewed existing research. 

They say phenomena such as out-of-body experiences or encounters with dead relatives are tricks of the mind rather than a glimpse of the afterlife. 

One of the researchers, Dr Caroline Watt, said: “Our brains are very good at fooling us.” 

The researchers say that many common near-death experiences could be caused by the brain’s attempt to make sense of unusual sensations and perceptions occurring during a traumatic event. 

Dr Watt, of the University of Edinburgh, said: “Some of the studies we examined show that many of the people experiencing a near-death experience were not actually in danger of dying, although most thought they were. 

“The scientific evidence suggests that all aspects of the near-death experience have a biological basis.” 

Bliss and euphoria 

One of the most frequently reported features of near-death experiences is an awareness of being dead – but the researchers say these feelings are not limited to near-death experiences. 

There is a condition called “Cotard” – or “walking corpse” syndrome, where a person believes they are dead. It has been seen following trauma and during the advanced stages of typhoid and multiple sclerosis. 

Out-of-body experiences, where people feel they are floating above themselves, are also commonly reported. 

But Swiss researchers found such experiences could be artificially induced by stimulating the right temporoparietal junction in the brain that plays a role in perception and awareness. 

The “tunnel of light” sensation reported by those who believe they are having a near-death experience can also be artificially induced. 

Pilots flying at G-force can sometimes experience “hypertensive syncope” which causes tunnel-like peripheral or even central visual loss for up to eight seconds. 

And a US study suggested the light at the end of the tunnel can be explained by poor blood and oxygen supply to the eye. 

The feelings of bliss and euphoria, meanwhile, can be recreated with drugs such as ketamine and amphetamine. 

The paper also suggests the action of noradrenaline, a hormone released by the mid-brain, can evoke positive emotions, hallucinations and other features of the near-death experience. 

Writing in the journal Trends in Cognitive Science, the researchers say: “Taken together, the scientific experience suggests that all aspects of near-death experience have a neuro-physiological or psychological basis.” 

Source: BBC News Website [October 31, 2011]

1 COMMENT

  1. A near death experience has never been created by artificial means. The above article is not research, just opinion. There is solid real research that shows consciousness continues to live after the death of the brain and body. It is time to face the truth.

    http://wp.me/pvtV5-Sm

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