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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. These characteristics include a perception of seeing and hearing apart from the physical body, passing into or through a tunnel, encountering a mystical light, intense and generally positive emotions, a review of part or all of their prior life experiences, encountering deceased loved ones, and a choice to return to their earthly life. There is no uniformly accepted definition of near-death experience.
Definitions of NDE with some variability have been used throughout the 35 plus years that NDE has been the subject of scholarly investigation. For my retrospective investigations, an NDE was required to have both a near-death and experience component. Near-death experiencers NDErs included in my investigations were generally unconscious and may have required cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Also, the experience had to be reasonably lucid, which excluded fragmentary or brief disorganized memories. The NDERF website has a form allowing near-death experiencers to share a detailed narrative of their experiences, and includes a detailed questionnaire.
Extensive prior studies found that an Internet survey has validity that is equivalent to traditional pencil-and-paper survey. Near-death experiences occur at a time when the person is so physically compromised that they are typically unconscious, comatose, or clinically dead. Considering NDEs from both a medical perspective and logically, it should not be possible for unconscious people to often report highly lucid experiences that are clear and logically structured. Near-death experiences often occur in association with cardiac arrest.
This is especially notable given the prolonged period of amnesia that typically precedes and follows recovery from cardiac arrest. A common characteristic of near-death experiences is an out-of-body experience. An out-of-body experience OBE is the apparent separation of consciousness from the body.
Following cardiac arrest, NDErs may see, and later accurately describe, their own resuscitation. The first prospective study of the accuracy of out-of-body observations during near-death experiences was by Dr. Michael Sabom. Both groups of patients were asked to describe their own resuscitation as best they could. Sabom found that the group of NDE patients were much more accurate than the control group in describing their own resuscitations.
Penny Sartori. The control group that did not have NDEs was highly inaccurate and often could only guess at what occurred during their resuscitations. Two large retrospective studies investigated the accuracy of out-of-body observations during near-death experiences.
The first was by Dr. Janice Holden. Another large retrospective investigation of near-death experiences that included out-of-body observations was recently published. Review of the OBEs found that The high percentage of accurate out-of-body observations during near-death experiences does not seem explainable by any possible physical brain function as it is currently known. This is corroborated by OBEs during NDEs that describe accurate observations while they were verifiably clinically comatose.
There have been a few case reports of near-death experiences in the blind. The largest study of this was by Dr. Kenneth Ring. Of the 31 individuals in the study, 10 were not facing life-threatening events at the time of their experiences, and thus their experiences were not NDEs. There were 14 individuals who were blind from birth in this study, and nine of them described vision during their experiences. This investigation presented case reports of those born totally blind that described in NDEs that were highly visual with content consistent with typical NDEs.
The NDERF website has received additional case reports of near-death experiences among those legally blind. For illustration, the following NDE happened to Marta, a five-year-old blind girl who walked into a lake:. A beautiful lady dressed in bright white light pulled me out. The lady looked into my eyes asked me what I wanted. I was unable to think of anything until it occurred to me to travel around the lake. I could go anywhere, even to the tops of trees, simply by my intending to go there.
I was legally blind. A review of narrative responses to this question revealed that vision during NDEs was often apparently supernormal. Here are some illustrative examples from NDEs:. I was able to see things as close or as far as I needed. There was no strain involved it was almost like auto zooming a camera. Vision in near-death experiencers that are blind, including totally blind from birth, has been described in many case reports.
This, along with the finding that vision in NDEs is usually different from normal everyday vision and often described as supernormal, further suggests that NDEs cannot be explained by our current understanding of brain function. This is also further evidence that NDEs are not a product of what NDErs would have expected to occur during a life-threatening event.
Under adequate general anesthesia it should not be possible to have a lucid organized memory. Prior studies using EEG and functional imaging of the brains of patients under general anesthesia provide substantial evidence that the anesthetized brain should be unable to produce lucid memories.
The occurrence of a cardiac arrest while under general anesthesia is a combination of circumstances in which no memory from that time should be possible. Here is an illustrative example of an NDE that occurred under general anesthesia during surgery for a heart valve replacement:.
The doctor told me later that they had kept my heart open and stopped for a long time, and they had a great amount of difficulty getting my heart started again. That must have been when I left my body because I could see the doctors nervously trying to get my heart going. It was strange to be so detached from my physical body. I was curious about what they were doing but not concerned. Then, as I drifted farther away, I saw my father at the head of the table.
He looked up at me, which did give me a surprise because he had been dead now for almost a year. Cardiac arrest was the most common life-threatening event that was described in association with the occurrence of these NDEs. I compared the responses of these 23 NDErs to the non-anesthesia NDErs by reviewing how both groups responded to 33 survey questions that asked about the content of the NDEs.
Chi-square statistics was used for this comparison. The only statistically ificant difference between the two groups was that the anesthesia NDEs were more likely to describe tunnels in their experiences. The responses to this question by the two groups were not statistically ificantly different. This suggests, remarkably, that the level of consciousness and alertness in NDEs is not modified by general anesthesia.
Other near-death experience investigators have reported NDEs occurring while under general anesthesia. NDEs due to cardiac arrest while under general anesthesia occur and are medically inexplicable. Some near-death experiences include a review of part or all of their prior lives. This NDE element is called a life review. NDErs typically describe their life review from a third-person perspective.
The life review may include awareness of what others were feeling and thinking at the time earlier in their life when they interacted with them. This ly unknown awareness of what other people were feeling or thinking when they interacted with them is often surprising and unexpected to the NDErs.
It was really peaceful there. I then began to see my whole life unfolding before me like a film projected on a screen, from babyhood to adult life. It was so real! I was looking at myself, but better than a 3-D movie as I was also capable of sensing the feelings of the persons I had interacted with through the years. I could feel the good and bad emotions I made them go through.
None of the life reviews in these NDEs appeared to have any unrealistic content as determined by my review or based on comments by the NDErs about their own life reviews. Life reviews may include long forgotten details of their earlier life that the NDErs later confirm really happened. If NDEs were unreal experiences, it would be expected that there would be ificant error in life reviews and possibly hallucinatory features.
The consistent accuracy of life reviews, including the awareness of long-forgotten events and awareness of the thoughts and feelings of others from past interactions, further suggests the reality of NDEs. Near-death experiences may describe encounters with people that they knew during their earthly life.
The following is an example of encountering a deceased loved ones in an NDE. This example is also notable as the NDEr was born totally deaf:. No explanation was necessary for me to understand, at the age of ten, that once I cross[ed] the boundary, I could never come back— period. I was more than thrilled to cross. I intended to cross, but my ancestors over another boundary caught my attention. They were talking in telepathy, which caught my attention.
I was born profoundly deaf and had all hearing family members, all of which knew language! I could read or communicate with about twenty ancestors of mine and others through telepathic methods. It overwhelmed me. I could not believe how many people I could telepathize with simultaneously. When people known to the near-death experiencers are encountered in NDEs, the great majority are people who are deceased. A study by Dr. Emily Kelly was a comparison of 74 NDEs with descriptions of encountering deceased individuals with NDEs that did not describe encounters with the deceased. In dreams or hallucinations when familiar persons are present they are much more likely to be living and from recent memory.
Cases have been reported by NDErs of seeing a person who they thought was living, but in fact had recently died. Further evidence that NDEs are not a result of expectation comes from the aforementioned Kelly study where in one-third of the cases the encountered deceased person had a poor or distant relationship with the NDEr, or was someone that had died before the NDEr was born. Investigation of near-death experiences in very young children is important because at an early age they are less likely to have established religious beliefs, cultural understandings about death, or even an awareness of what death is.
Very young children would be very unlikely to have heard about near-death experiences or understand them. Two NDEs were excluded as they did not provide their age in the survey. The study groups included 26 NDErs that were age 5 and younger average 3. Chi-square statistics was used to compare the responses to these 33 questions between the two groups. Cherie Sutherland who reviewed thirty years of scholarly literature regarding the NDEs of children and concluded:. However, it is now clear that the age of children at the time of their NDE does not in any way determine its complexity.
Even prelinguistic children have later reported quite complex experiences…. Age does not seem in any way to affect the content of the NDE. Very young children have near-death experience content that is strikingly similar to older children and adults. This is further evidence that NDEs are occurring independently of preexisting cultural beliefs, religious training, or awareness of the existence of NDE. Portions of the NDERF website, including the questionnaire, have been translated into 23 different languages.
Many website visitors are bilingual and this help assure that the NDEs are accurately translated. My investigation of NDEs from around the world that have been translated into English shows that their content is strikingly similar. However, in my review of over NDEs from dozens of countries around the world I found impressive similarities in the content of these NDEs. This investigation concluded:. Two recent investigations of Muslim near-death experiences in non-Western countries have been reported. The lack of ificant differences in the content of near-death experiences around the world, including NDEs from non-Western countries, suggests that NDE content is not substantially modified by preexisting cultural influences.
This finding is consistent with the ly discussed finding that children age five and under, who have received far less cultural influence than adults during their brief lives, have NDEs with content that is essentially the same as older children and adults. Other common forms of altered consciousness, such as dreams or hallucinations, are much more likely to be ificantly influenced by prior cultural beliefs and life experiences.
The lack of ificant differences in the content of NDEs around the world is consistent with the concept that NDEs occur independently from physical brain function as currently understood. Following near-death experiences ificant changes in the lives of NDErs are commonly observed. Changes in beliefs and values following near-death experiences are often called aftereffects. Given that a life-threatening event without an NDE might result in life changes, some of the best evidence for NDE-specific aftereffects came from the largest prospective NDE study ever reported.Out of body experience test
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Out-of-body experiences: Neuroscience or the paranormal?