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I should have added that the researchers also performed some tests in which rats were asphyxiated rather than suffering cardiac arrest, yet the same electrical surge was recorded.

I haven't read the study, just your excerpts Michael. Personally, I find it morallyquestionable to kill (I assume they do) innocent animals for this purpose. Anyway, I would be surprised if there were no measurable physical process(es) involved in the separation of the spirit from the body. To me it's very likely that they share some (expanded) physcial bounds we today know nothing about. Breaking physical bounds usually require and can release energy. Are we taking about milliwatts? Would be interesting to know the figures. If the spirit breaks from the brain, then the associated electromagnetic activity should somehow mirror the spirit's main connections (coherent processes during the breakage of them). The results from this and similiar studies can both support and make it more more difficult to argue for an independent spiritual existence.

Tonight's show On Coast to Coast AM:

2:08am - 5am ET
11:08pm - 2am PT
After-Death Communications
Sun 07-13
Induced After Death Communication (IADC) is a therapy for grief and trauma that has helped thousands of people come to terms with their loss by allowing them the experience of private communication with their departed loved ones. Dr. Allan Botkin, a clinical psychologist, joins George Knapp to discuss how he created the therapy while counseling Vietnam veterans in his work at a Chicago area VA hospital.

"If the spirit breaks from the brain, then the associated electromagnetic activity should somehow mirror the spirit's main connections (coherent processes during the breakage of them). The results from this and similar studies can both support and make it more more difficult to argue for an independent spiritual existence."

Yes, I agree. The trouble with interpreting the surge as the release of the spirit from the body is that it sounds like special pleading. The strength of NDEs as evidence has always been that the brain was believed to be nonfunctional or barely functional. If this is not the case, NDEs are severely weakened as evidence for an afterlife.

OTOH, the study does not address veridical observations, and the fact that no such electrical surge was detected in animals under anesthesia is problematic, since many NDEs do occur under anesthesia.

"Personally, I find it morally questionable to kill (I assume they do) innocent animals for this purpose."

Sadly, rats have always been pretty expendable. Life is tough when you're a rat.

I will have to take time and read those papers before drawing an appropriate conclusion. I apologise for any misconception I might have during this short personal review.

Though I would have to admit that I am a bit disappointed with the response paper by Greyson. B, Kelly. E., ....
The reply feels rushed, as if the authors didn't take time to verify all details in the article (or at least tried to explain more properly accounting for the experimental data).

I would think that maybe they have had plenty of material to ascertain their belief that NDEs are not explainable neurologically and discard those attempts to associate NDEs to a naturalist brain reaction as petty.
Yet those careless replies are not well regarded by me, they seems akin to petty explanations given by pseudo skeptics when explaining psychic phenomena.

I hope I can see a change in this sort of attitude regarding many prominent figures in afterlife research.

This paper ( it's not new, at least a year old ) is going to be very confusing for many people.
What this woman is saying is that there is electrical activity after the heart has stopped for up to 30 seconds in rats which according to her means that NDE can be fitted into that slot.

Deep electrical activity has also been measured in humans in coma even when the cortical signals are zero. In cardiac arrest in humans, I think it's about 15 seconds until cortical activity goes flat..but quite possibly some deeper structures may still function for another 15 seconds if her rat study is eventually found to be applicable to humans.

However, to put a rat trap in her laboratory, I would suggest it is the height of bad science to give so much credence to an experiment on an animal... that can't even tell you if it had any experience at all. Furthermore, you have to ignore all the veridical paranormal components of NDE. And all those NDE's that have occurred well after 30 seconds of heart stoppage.

In the article linked to here she says this >>
Kate - How do you go about investigating near-death experiences because obviously, when a human is having a near-death experience, we’ve normally got other things to worry about than measuring their brain?

Jimo - That's right. eah, if I know if somebody is about to have near-death experiences, first instinct is to save them rather than to stick electrodes in their brain. So, I think to do that kind of studies for individuals with a cardiac arrest is really tough. Unless you know somebody is going to have a pre-scheduled brain operation and we could perhaps give them EEG, electrode recording, just in case that patients, when they wake up, they'll report some kind of near-death experiences. I think those might be the kind of more feasible studies one could perform in the future, if there are sufficient number of patients who actually are available for neurosurgeons to gather data from.

http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/content/interviews/interview/1000360/

So clearly she is not aware that this (monitoring) has already occurred in the Pam Reynolds case. And yet Gerry Woerlee has said that he doesn't have any confidence in what those signals represented which is basically like having your "cake and eating it" (wanting it both ways) comes to mind. Reynolds charts were examined minutely and no pattern of consciousness was detected in the periods discussed.

How could they possibly explain veridical observations in NDEs from a materialistic point of view?

What about Sam Parnia's reports of people claiming to be conscious several hours after the brain was "dead"?

"This paper ( it's not new, at least a year old )"

True, but it was new to me. I was vaguely aware of it, but I hadn't read it.

"So clearly she is not aware that this (monitoring) has already occurred in the Pam Reynolds case."

In the rat study, intracranial electrodes were used. I assume this is what she's referring to when she says "stick electrodes in their brain." In the Reynolds case, I believe scalp electrodes were used.

"Reynolds charts were examined minutely and no pattern of consciousness was detected in the periods discussed."

The veridical part of Reynolds' NDE occurred before the "standstill" portion of the procedure had commenced, so she still had brain activity at that time. She was anesthetized but not flatlining. The non-veridical (i.e. not objectively verifiable) part of her NDE could have occurred at any time - even (conceivably) in the thirty second window of a cardiac arrest-related electrical surge.

"How could they possibly explain veridical observations in NDEs from a materialistic point of view?"

As I said above, the veridical observations continue to pose a challenge to materialistic explanations. But the surge could possibly provide a materialistic explanation for some aspects of the NDE.

The veridical (OBE) part of an NDE always precedes the tunnel/being of light/visit to heaven part, I believe. (I'm talking about NDEs have both veridical and non-veridical component. Some NDEs have only one or the other.) It's conceivable that the veridical OBE is some sort of psi phenomenon, perhaps triggered as the overlay of the mind's conscious chatter is shut down, allowing psi to become more active. The tunnel/light/heaven experience could conceivably be the mind in overdrive during the thirty-second surge.

The basic problem with this hypothesis is that tunnel/light/heaven NDEs occur in situations where there does not appear to be any surge, such as while under anesthesia. Or so I believe - but I'd have to look into it to be sure the anesthesia cases do feature this component, at least some of the time.

By the way, one problem with the idea that the surge indicates the soul's separation from the body is that, according to researchers who've done tests on human patients, an end-of-life electrical surge occurs only about half the time.

Here's an interesting counterpoint to the claim that the rat study can explain NDEs:

http://www.iands.org/news/news/front-page-news/981-study-on-rats-proposes-a-mechanism-for-ndes.html

Thanks for the reply, Michael.

Without a working cortex, consciousness including cognitive processes with memory formation cannot occur unless one wants to re-write the text books. A study on nine rats is not going to do that therefore EEG monitoring of the cortex is sufficient.

EEG depth electrodes are able to detect some deep brain activity even in people in a coma but you wouldn't say they were conscious.

When Pam Reynolds heard the conversation about her femoral arteries being too small for canulation, she was under EEG burst suppression, a pattern of brain waves in which consciousness is not possible. Rudolf Smit and myself received this directly from Dr Spetzler last year although Gerry Woerlee refused to accept the word of Spetzler.

I even emailed Keith A to tell him but Keith said that he didn't pay much attention to what doctors say (roughly)

Keith however DOES accept the word Of one doctor, a certain Dr Woerlee who was not there and had nothing to do with the operation. Odd, don't you think ?

One seemingly consistent criticism of the paper that I have read (and I hope I don't mangle it) seems to point out that there is some uncertainty about gamma activity being linked to conscious precepts or not.

Along with the fact that we don't know what the rats were experiencing, if anything, at the recorded time. So it may be jumping the gun a bit to declare this activity is that of an NDE.

By the way, one problem with the idea that the surge indicates the soul's separation from the body is that, according to researchers who've done tests on human patients, an end-of-life electrical surge occurs only about half the time.
Could depend on the speed and the nature of the spirit/body separation process. The separation could take place during a longer period, perhaps very long. If the spirit is not being drawn to the spritual realms or aware of the situation, it might stay attached to the decaying body for a while, beyond the time when these kind of measurements is no longer possible.

For those who may not have clicked on the link (posted at 11:16 AM above), here are some interesting thoughts by Robert Mays:

"... the transient pattern of coherent gamma oscillations (25-55 Hz) that were observed in the awake rats in this study prior to anesthesia is typical of consciousness. The coherent oscillations are only a small part of the overall picture of the rat's consciousness. Coherent gamma oscillations are indications only of specific, directed cognitive activity rather than general consciousness. These oscillations always occur in the context of other electrical activity that indicate general consciousness. Thus the result that the gamma oscillations increased significantly in the period after cardiac arrest is not an indication of a heightened general consciousness.

"[Another] flaw is that the researchers discounted or ignored the overall power of the electrical activity in the awake rat, where there is clearly consciousness, compared with the greatly reduced power of electrical activity after cardiac arrest. The overall power of electrical activity in the conscious rat is more than 30 times greater than after cardiac arrest. (This is an estimate since I do not have access to the specific data).

"There is ample evidence that consciousness is supported only by a certain minimal level of electrical activity. After the cardiac arrest, the rats do not have sufficient electrical brain activity to support consciousness ...

"So what do the highly coherent, global oscillations in the rats indicate? Most likely they are a natural oscillation that occurs in resonant neural circuits when the neural activity of the living rat has ceased. In other words, they are the remnant electrical activity of a dead brain."

On its face this sounds pretty convincing (though again, I'm no neuroscientist), and may help to explain what Greyson et. al were objecting to in the second point they made.

And still there is nothing to account for the vast similarity of NDEs experienced by so many people, and the same narrative quality of NDEs. Yes, I realize that some NDEs do differ, but for the most part, most have the same narrative. Strange to think that this lingering electricity in the brain could account for this. Also: those poor rats - they are by many accounts intelligent and affectionate creatures.

Michael ? :-) was it too controversial, or do you not believe me ?

"was it too controversial, or do you not believe me ?"

I gather you're asking if I believe this:

"When Pam Reynolds heard the conversation about her femoral arteries being too small for canulation, she was under EEG burst suppression, a pattern of brain waves in which consciousness is not possible."

I certainly believe you raised the issue with Dr. Spetzler and he gave you the answer you reported. I'm not a neurologist, so I can't evaluate this answer. It may be the case that there is some controversy about how much awareness, if any, is possible in that state. I just don't know, though I'll try to look into it.

Below is a link to Dr. Woerlee's analysis.

http://neardth.com/pam-reynolds-near-death-experience.php#burst

He agrees that consciousness is impossible under conditions of burst suppression, but argues that the total amount of the sedative thiopental (necessary to induce burst suppression) administered to Pam Reynolds would be adequate for only about two hours (at most) of sedation, while the entire procedure lasted longer than six hours. On this basis he argues that she did not exhibit burst suppression throughout the entire procedure, but only for a portion of it - the portion that began when the blood vessels to her brain were clamped. The veridical part of her NDE took place before this.

Some sources I looked at seem to suggest that intraoperative awareness may be possible even under burst suppression:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2586896/

I read only the abstract, but it sounds as if test animals (rats again) showed some response to auditory stimuli, and could distinguish between familiar and unfamiliar voices, even when their EEGs showed burst suppression patterns.

http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-642-29305-4_131

Again, I only read the abstract. Here two cases of anesthesia awareness were linked to specific patterns of burst suppression in EEG records.

From my admittedly brief overview, it seems to me that burst suppression is generally correlated with unconsciousness, but that in rare cases some degree of awareness may persist, depending on the length of the intervals of suppressed activity - the longer they are, the less chance there is of any awareness.

It also appears that great strides in determining the precise burst-suppression ratios to prevent introperative awareness have been taken in the last decade; but Pam Reynolds' surgery occurred in 1991, when much less was known about this issue.

Another complicating factor is spontaneous spiritual experiences. Most of us are familiar with "fear death" experience stories, where someone is absolutely convinced that they are about to die, and they immediately undergo a brief, but powerful OBE. These usually lack the detail of a deep NDE, but they are quite real to the experiencer.

Of course, one could say that the fear-stricken person had an electrochemical surge just like the rats, but what about more prolonged spontaneous spiritual experiences that happen in perfectly healthy people who are nowhere close to the point of death?
Eastern mystics may experience Nirvana, Christian mystics talk of The Uncreated Light, and average everyday people have been swept away by ecstatic, coherent visions for no apparent reason. Even hard-nosed scientists are not immune. Remember Charles Tart's TASTE webpage?
http://www.issc-taste.org/arc/dbo.cgi?set=expo&ss=1

Michael,

Alex dealt with this on Skeptiko last year:

http://www.skeptiko.com/223-dumbest-explanation-yet-for-near-death-experience/

The first paper you've linked to is interesting, Michael but once again it's an experiment on rats which showed some response (a burst) when hand clapping was used as a stimulus. We have no way of knowing whether or not they "remembered" the sound when they woke up.

Reynolds brain wave activity was monitored throughout the operation and nothing showed on the charts. If she had heard a conversation there would have been a spike(s) on the read out.

The link to Woerlee's site is really just a link to propaganda which I have read. I acknowledge Gerry's expertise but I cannot see how we can accept his word and ignore the word of the surgeon who conducted the operation.

Another interesting revelation on the Reynolds case was that she saw the body jump as she was getting back into it (after standstill). At this time she was being rewarmed and her heart (after it had been re-started) went into VF which can occur at low body temperatures. At this time her body temp was 27 degrees C which is too low to be conscious apart from the fact that you can't be conscious anyway in cardiac arrest.

"I acknowledge Gerry's expertise but I cannot see how we can accept his word and ignore the word of the surgeon who conducted the operation."

But given that Dr. Spetzler published data about the standstill operations he'd performed, and that the data included the amount of thiopental used in the procedure, Dr. Woerlee is probably justified in using that information to calculate how long Reynolds could have been kept in a state of burst suppression.

"If she had heard a conversation there would have been a spike(s) on the read out."

Do we know this with certainty? It seems to me that there is still a lot we don't know about the potential for awareness under anesthesia - hence the various rat studies and the studies of burst suppression ratios, etc.

"Alex dealt with this on Skeptiko last year"

Thanks for the link. It's interesting, and Alex made some good points, but the two interviews didn't cover Dr. Borjigin's study specifically.

"But given that Dr. Spetzler published data about the standstill operations he'd performed, and that the data included the amount of thiopental used in the procedure, Dr. Woerlee is probably justified in using that information to calculate how long Reynolds could have been kept in a state of burst suppression. "

He is justified in using that information unless or until it is over-ruled by the author of it.
In this case Spetzler over ruled his own published paper.

I asked Spetzler a simple and very specific question so that there could be no doubt as to the meaning of his reply.

".....were Pam's brainwaves effectively flat when she "heard" the conversation about her femoral arteries being too small for canulation"

I received a straightforward "Yes" RFS

What am I supposed to do with that, ignore it and listen to the opinion of a doctor who wasn't there and who just happens to be a militant atheist and dedicated NDE debunker. Sorry, Michael thanks for your input but I can't see it myself.

I freely admit that I really, really want to believe in life after death. I'm 57 years old and the thought of renewing relationship or having another chance at a missed relationship is "heaven" to me. ;-) That said I honestly don't know. But, here's my thing: I don't see why an electrical surge in the brain would cause people to visit an afterlife. If it's simply causing hyper awareness then you might find noise and light and stimulus around you increased. So, some of the light and maybe even hearing a conversation in the next room "might" be partially explained. But, another realm? Either you are saying the brain is picking up on natural stimuli which means hyper or stronger signals. Or you are saying it is hallucinating which would not be "better" function. What I'm trying to say is on one hand "Oh, this is why people are more lucid right before death." On the other "Oh, the brain is making stuff up." See the problem there? Anyway, I wonder if this isn't something (life after death) that ultimately has to be experienced individually more than "proven" as a fact. Still, I certainly support honest research such as Dr. Parnia and others. People with an axe to grind or to prove the absolute superiority of material science? Not so much. ;-)

In Carl Turner's mystical experience he says, "I had the realization that I was everywhere at the same time...and I mean everywhere." Which describes information on a piece of holographic film exactly.

What is interesting is that it is the exact same thing that what Mark Horton says in his NDE description, "I literally had the feeling that I was everywhere in the universe simultaneously."

Now why would two separate individuals, who probably don't know each other and more than likely haven't read each others writings say exactly the same holographic thing? I find that very evidential.

And in Dr. Taudo's description of his transcendental experience he also is essentially telling us the exact same thing,

"I was looking at the presenter when my eye was attracted by something on the floor near the feet of the man in front of me. My initial thought was that a field mouse had run there. However, when I looked directly at the place I had sensed motion, I was astonished to see that the man's legs seemed somehow to be elongating through the concrete floor! As I visually followed them "down" they appeared to merge with a very large, living structure which appeared to be the back of some sort of truly enormous reptile.

I was quite confused by this, as one might imagine, and looked intently to determine what I was seeing. The image did not fade, but became ever more clear. As I looked around, I saw that the same "connection" was true of everyone in the room. Each stood revealed to me as a kind of animated extrusion from the body of the beast - individual, but of a piece with the same living organism.

Until this point - which may have been 30 seconds from the initiation of the event - I had been so astonished and intrigued by what I was seeing that I had no sense of alarm whatsoever. That changed to a momentary sense of anxiety, or even dread, when it occurred to me to look down at my own legs.

Sure enough, I was also attached. And in that instant I could feel, as well as see, that intimate attachment. I could feel the animating energy flow into me, giving me form, existence, and conscious individuality.

With that, came a flood of extremely positive emotions. I felt vibrantly alive, safe, warm, connected with all that exists. All sense of astonishment, skepticism, or disbelief vanished and was replaced with a directly experienced knowledge that what I was being shown represented a more fundamental reality, and that my normal experience of separate beings was not wrong - just incomplete."
http://issc-taste.org/arc/dbo.cgi?set=expom&id=00070&ss=1

He also describes a very "holographic" reality where we are all connected and "one." Isn't this also evidential? How is this possible? Where all these different people give descriptions that parallel and are congruent with how many physicists describe our Universe? How can these people know these things? They can't just be making it up. There is something amazing and mind boggling about our Universe. We are not just the physical beings we see in this life. We are something more.

@Duck Soup. Good points.

Michael

I was wondering if this study now makes you believe in the validity of NDEs alot less than before? Does this make you think that NDEs may not be real now or are you still a firm believer in them?

The thing I don't understand about their response to Greyson was their objection that the EEG tests were conducted using intercranial vs. Scalp electrodes. Wouldn't scalp technology detect an increase in EEG levels. As Irreducible mind points out, "..such activity is emitnetly detectable by EEG technology. The one study is the only study that finds that surge, most others found nothing. IDK just a thought

So after 30 seconds (more or less) all brain activity in the rats' brains ceased. Their brains are pretty much like our brains in how they are wired and how they work, so it's not crazy to think that all brain functions in humans stop after 30 second in cardiac arrest cases... here's the thing: It is well known that veridical and non veridical perceptions happen before AND after this period has passed.

At some point, the brain DOES become severely compromised, yet NDErs still claim to be conscious!

If perceptions during an NDE stopped after 25 or 30 or 35 seconds after the cardiac arrest, then maybe this study could be useful in explaining NDEs... the thing is that this is not what happens.

Hey,

What do you think of this? This post on a blog I found states that parapsychology may have equal to or greater reasons for experimenter fraud than the "real" scientific fields, and lists them. I think it's a pretty reasonable list, although it seems that a lot of them could be applied to any field as well.

They're on the bottom of this page. I think that discussing experimenter fraud would be useful in advancing things.

reflectivedisequilibrium.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/what-do-null-fields-tell-us-about-fraud.html

This is just like all the super-psi discussion we've had some posts ago: I just can't take it very seriously.

I don't see how this experiment is supposed to explain the deep core of Near Death Experiences wich veridical and non veridical perceptions happen minutes and (according to Dr. Parnia's research) even hours after brain activity has ceased.

This one year old study has not weakened NDErs claims to me.

"Does this make you think that NDEs may not be real now or are you still a firm believer in them?"

I wouldn't change my mind overnight on the basis of one controversial study. But I do like to sympathetically engage with criticism, rather than reflexively trying to debunk it. So as a general practice, I try to provisionally adopt a hypothesis and then see how it stands up. As you can see from my latest post, "Of Mice and Men," I'm still thinking about it.

Michael,

Excellent information gathered and presented! I had not known that so many NDEs were experienced under anesthesia.

A few points:

1. *Of course* there has to be some neurological component of an NDE; otherwise, how could the experiencer remember it?

Let's say the person is OBE, is in the actual Afterlife or at least its gateway, and then is resuscitated and brought back to the body. Until now that experience is not being registered on the neurons, since the brain is not operational. This is unlike any daily experience, since presumably we are remembering as we go along. So how does the memory of that experience suddenly "appear" in the brain?

I think I have an answer, which goes back to my theory that memories are stored outside the body and what's stored in the brain are only pointers to those memories in the Akashic records (or the infinite pool of information). The pointer to that memory set could be registered as the person is coming back into the body--or it could be registered before. Or either. In any case, something has to happen in the brain to connect it. So if a skeptic were to say that something is happening in the brain that is somehow related to the NDE, I would wholeheartedly agree. I don't know if a surge is related, however.

2. I don't think this newish information really changes anything. If one is a skeptic, one can always speculate that the NDE is generated a confabulated, sense-making memory after the fact and that no experience was taking place when consciousness was not present. Sure, the fact of the surge is something new for skeptics to throw in the face of believers, but they already had a long list of quasi-explanations that they never cross over, no matter how many times they are debunked.

3. For me, the strongest evidence that NDEs are "real" is not even the veridical observations but their consistency. While recognizing as no one pointed out in a recent thread that Indian NDEs and American NDEs can vary, what's always true is that the person is not having random dreams or other experiences--which is what I think we'd expect granted the truth of materialism. We wouldn't expect something coherent. Then there is the fact that the experiencers insist that they are real. I have read of very, very few exceptions. If the experiences were not real, we would expect a significant percentage of experiencers to "see through" them and say so. They don't.

Michael, you need to look more skeptically at statements such as this:

"Moreover, this gamma band exhibits an eightfold increase in top-down information processing (thought to be a key element of consciousness) and fivefold increase in bottom-up information flow (thought to represent sensory information processing) at near death. In addition, we found tight coupling of gamma bands with both theta and alpha bands, yet another indicator of conscious information processing in the postarrest brain."

There is no established science of correlating types of brain activity and brain wave readings. It's a "tea leaf reading" type of thing. Nobody can tell what is going on inside the brain of a rat from looking at brain waves (except perhaps for saying that a rat is unconscious when it has no brain waves). Don't make the mistake of thinking that neuroscience is mostly on a solid foundation -- until we have a big breakthrough, it 90% guesswork. You're ignoring all the qualifiers in the statement -- two "thought to" statements, and one "indicator" statement, which together indicate a highly speculative analysis.

"those careless replies are not well regarded by me, they seems akin to petty explanations given by pseudo skeptics when explaining psychic phenomena." - Allen C

That is (and always has been) the crux of the matter for me. Why this, and other psi-related issues, have to be regarded as aggressive stand-off issues is completely beyond me.

Why not just wait and see? We'll all know the truth eventually. The kind of gladiatorial combat entered into by the likes of Alex Tsakiris and his forum entourage does nothing to lighten the darkness. It simply represents the 'tit-for-tat' mentality and leaves one feeling trapped in some kind of an asylum.

"Also: those poor rats - they are by many accounts intelligent and affectionate creatures." - Kathleen

They are indeed! Anyone who, like me, has kept those animals as pets will, I'm sure, testify to their emotional sensitivity, kindness and generosity of spirit. How can anyone condone such treatment of them in non-necessary medical experiments? For myself, I would ban the use of animals in experiments per se. But this experiment surely takes the biscuit. :/

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