IMG_0569
Blog powered by Typepad

« More on Flint | Main | Natural born killers? »

Comments

Haven't had a chance to read the post yet, Michael, but the high standard you set for titles has just soared to a new level.

Also of potential interest to you, my article about the possibility of animals having near-death experiences.

http://weekinweird.com/2014/04/28/animals-near-death-experiences/

If the brain=mind model has any validity, then brain states should match the level of awareness, because, according to the standard model, electrical activity in the brain produces consciousness.

After all, awareness *is* the brain state -apparantly.

In order to report a higher level of awareness, which many NDErs report, we should expect electrical activity across the brain to be at a level higher than normal, but instead what we have here, even in these so called 'surges', is still a minimal level of electrical activity, certainly not enough to form even minimal 'normal' awareness, never mind heightened awareness.

The recent experiments with Psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) has only confirmed this. Despite media reports to the contrary, stating that Psilocybin 'increases brain activity', in actuality, these hallucinogens only *decrease overall brain activity*.

However, decreased brain activity actually results in some of the most cogent, hyper aware states of consciousness ever experienced by the subject, in complete contradiction to the standard brain=mind model.

For the media misrepresentation of the recent Psilocybin studies, please visit Bernardo Kastrup's blog, where he discusses this in greater detail, and more convincingly than I ever could!

Regards,

Douglas

Excellent and informative post as always, Michael!

There are three main things that come to mind that make the dying brain hypothesis for NDEs unworkable in my view:

1. Veridical information. If we accept that this has occurred, then materialism itself is defeated.

2. Consistency of experience. Skeptics try to deny that NDEs are alike, but there should be *no* consistency of experience at all. This includes both in the positive sense (experiencing the same things) and in the negative sense (not experiencing certain things. And I would argue that consistency of experience in the negative sense is even more important, since the overall lack of random dreamlike and hallucinatory content is very difficult to explain under the dying brain hypothesis. When it comes to dreams and tripping, we can experience almost anything and everything. NDErs don't.

3. Irrelevancy. Even if it is proved that one thing or multiple things can trigger an NDE, my response is: duh. The whole *point* of NDEs is that people can have an experience of death without really dying, so there would *have* to be triggers of some sort that do not necessitate death. Contrariwise, NDEs as a general phenomenon do not prove anything either. It is individual experiencers' testimony and NDEs in the context of other phenomena that have weight (or ought to have weight, IMO) in forming a belief system that includes an Afterlife.

I think the tough work actually begins when we accept that materialism is dead and buried (and has no Afterlife, heh heh). As our discussion about Flint implies, it is very difficult to put together the big picture of what's going on when we take seriously all of the phenomena that we have observed to date.

For the media misrepresentation of the recent Psilocybin studies, please visit Bernardo Kastrup's blog, where he discusses this in greater detail, and more convincingly than I ever could!

Regards, Douglas


Here's the link:
http://www.bernardokastrup.com/search?q=psilocybin

PS: Read Kastrup's threads starting from the bottom up, to match his chronology.

Here's a piquant Kastrup quote:

As an extreme skeptic (so much so that I am often described by skeptics as a believer!), I am sure of nothing but the fact that I am conscious. . . . And the problem I see with the modern skeptical movement is a lack of skepticism and critical attitude; namely, skepticism and critical attitude towards their own default positions.

Kastrup quotes a paragraph from MP in this thread, which is critical of New Age-ism:
http://www.bernardokastrup.com/2012/05/fantasies-in-modern-age.html

When I first became interested in NDEs, a compelling factor which influenced my thinking was the empirical evidence suggesting that no brain activity was corresponding to complex structured awareness. Now clearly anything which genuinely brings this notion into question does undermine, at least to some degree, this important line of evidence supporting the spiritual nature of near death experiences.

I have not read any of the technical papers supporting the claim that these electrical spikes in the brain are the likely cause of NDEs, but it is reasonable to be initially cautious of such claims (not necessarily the presence of electrical spikes during the death process, but their significance in relation to NDEs). This caution is warranted because NDEs clearly invoke strong emotions on both sides of the debate, and there has been plenty of evidence that sceptics, even the more educated ones, are very biased against the idea of NDEs having a non-materialist explanation, and will typically espouse arguments that reflect this strong bias. I guess ultimately the devil is in the details, and it is probably worth investing a bit of time closely examining the relevant technical papers. Having said this however, I think the bottom line might be that the relevance of the spikes will remain an open question for some time to come. At this stage it is unlikely that anyone can convincingly ascertain the true significance of these electrical spikes to NDEs.

As I have not read the papers yet, there is one point I am not quite clear on. It has been demonstrated in a number of cases that there is no detectable brain activity during NDEs, certainly the ones involving cardiac arrest cases. Is it the claim of these scientists that these spikes are likely present in such cases anyway but occurring too deep in the brain to be detected?

It is important to bear in mind however that just because something is theoretically possible (from the point of view of a limited knowledge perspective) does not mean it is probable. As always, opinions on this will depend on the background beliefs of the individual. Anyone who is a philosophical materialist will immediately seize on the slightest suggestion that a materialist explanation is possible (this is just stating the obvious of course). Speaking personally, I am an agnostic with regards to such things as the afterlife, but I am certainly not an agnostic regarding reductive materialism, which is demonstrably false (I can't possibly meaningfully quality that statement here, but hope to write a number of guest posts on this blog when I have chance, outlining some of the main reasons I know this to be the case). Despite the claims of certain individuals, there are currently no viable theories of consciousness (again another statement I can't meaningfully qualify here). Partly as a consequence of the above realizations, I do not personally believe that the brain produces consciousness, much less awareness during NDEs. It is important to acknowledge however that the brain undoubtedly influences the structure of conscious experience; hence the neural correlates of consciousness.

I am sure that any sceptic who heard someone continuing to claim that NDEs are genuine spiritual experiences despite this recent revelation of brain spikes in dying rats would take this as proof positive that believers will cling to their beliefs despite any evidence which works against their viewpoints. However this works both ways. It is unquestionably the case that all the evidence of veridical NDEs, and the absence of detectable brain activity during these episodes, has typically had absolutely no traction with sceptics. They are every bit as dogmatic as they claim believers of NDEs to be.

Again, to state the obvious, these brain spikes do not address the phenomenon of veridical NDEs, or at least cases where the NDEer could not possibly be aware of what they claimed to know, even given that they had some kind of limited brain functioning. These cases however constitute a relatively small minority of the total number of NDE cases, so I guess a sceptic could just simply discount such cases on this basis alone, simply reasoning that these minority cases are either instances of fraud or are simply due to some other more mundane explanation.

The bottom line is that from a believers point of view the ideal situation is to have a categorical black and white shut case of their being absolutely no brain activity during NDEs. This makes a materialistic explanation of NDEs very tricky indeed. However the reality is that this situation is not so black and white as one would like to hope for. But one should guard against the more extravagant claims of materialistic sceptics who are as good as suggesting that these electrical spikes are almost certainly the explanation for NDEs.


sorry if this is ot...what do you think of this??
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00426-017-0855-9

Mark writes: "It is important to acknowledge however that the brain undoubtedly influences the structure of conscious experience; hence the neural correlates of consciousness."

"The bottom line is that from a believers point of view the ideal situation is to have a categorical black and white shut case of their being absolutely no brain activity during NDEs."

But if the brain necessarily influences the structure of consciousness then, surely, there has to be some kind of brain activity at some level for the conscious experience to be structured and recorded in memory when full consciousness re-emerges? Or am I missing something vital in the permutation?

People who have death bed visions and nearing death awareness are on the verge of dying. They are half here and half there. It is very common and it is written that about 60%+ of people in hospice have these visions. Something happens to the dying brain that triggers these visions.

I have read stories of people who have seen animals during these death bed visions and also in their near death experiences. I remember one in particular where the woman saw a golden retriever that she used to own. It is not that uncommon.

Most recently I read a charming story about a 35 year old woman with down syndrome who was dying (which they didn't know at the time) who saw her calico cat, Patches.

"We had a 35 year old with down syndrome and heart failure. She was doing very well, but one day her sister called in a panic. The pt had started talking about a cat being in her home. Her sister was sure she was hallucinating. So we went to see pt, and after talking to her it became clear that this was not just any cat. This was Patches, the pt's cat who she had grown up with and who had died 18 years earlier. This pt was insistent on us feeding patches, getting a litter box, etc. We mentioned to the family that we sometimes see this kind of thing at the end of life, but no one really took it seriously because the pt was doing so well. She died suddenly 5 days after Patches showed up." http://allnurses.com/general-nursing-discussion/deathbed-visions-updated-617087-page2.html?s=64af4daaf523f58b639bd44b44c5c385

We are all on our way to that place and our time here passes by quickly. It seems to be that it is irrelevant whether we believe it or not. It is universal and happens to everyone. Because of what I have read about terminal lucidity I believe we get it all back. All our memories and everything we have loved and lost on this side will be waiting for us in that Light.

Julie wrote: 'But if the brain necessarily influences the structure of consciousness then, surely, there has to be some kind of brain activity at some level for the conscious experience to be structured and recorded in memory when full consciousness re-emerges? Or am I missing something vital in the permutation?'

Going back to Bernardo Kastrup's blog mentioned earlier, Bernardo has no problem with some brain correlation. In fact he says that his hypothesis 'kind of requires it'.

In his view, memories are not in themselves stored in the brain, but they are *retrieved* by the brain, so we should expect some neural activity when recalling memories. Upon regaining 'normal' consciousness from an NDE, the 'retrieval pathway', for want of a better phrase, is then encoded in the brain, not the memory itself.

This process is why it's technically incorrect to say that dementia destroys memories. I think it's more correct to say that dementia destroys *access* to memories.

This is why advanced dementia patients sometimes have moments of lucidity where they remember a small detail from 40 years ago, but a few seconds later and it's gone again, something I've witnessed on several occasions. For this reason, I think Bernardo's right. As to where memories are actually stored, that's still an open question. I have a feeling that they are not stored in the body at all - they belong to 'the field'.

Semi-relevant; I own rats, who are very sweet, and have read articles about how rats show more empathy than a lot of humans, will fight snakes to save their babies, and are capable of feeling regret. Whatever is going on with this, I see no reason their brains and/or souls shouldn't work the same way humans' do.

"If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans" - James Herriot.

To relate it to reported near death experiences in humans they'd have to have evidence that the rats were having a near death experience, and dead rats can't report.

The only way to have any information about the internal experience of a living being is by their report of that experience. This should always be pointed out. And there is no way and there never will be any way to fact check the accuracy or truth or quality of that experience because the one experiencing it is the only one who knows anything about it, they are the one and only expert of their own experience.

Such neuroscience isn't science, it's ideological propaganda.

What a pointlessly sadistic experiment.

"Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in." - Mark Twain,

Douglas wrote,

||In his view, memories are not in themselves stored in the brain, but they are *retrieved* by the brain, so we should expect some neural activity when recalling memories. Upon regaining 'normal' consciousness from an NDE, the 'retrieval pathway', for want of a better phrase, is then encoded in the brain, not the memory itself.||

That is cool. He and I have arrived at this conclusion independently. I think the science 100% backs this up. No specific memory location in the brain has been found to date.

||This process is why it's technically incorrect to say that dementia destroys memories. I think it's more correct to say that dementia destroys *access* to memories.||

Agreed. And the normal loss of memory over time is the same thing.

||As to where memories are actually stored, that's still an open question. I have a feeling that they are not stored in the body at all - they belong to 'the field'.||

Yes. I posit information by its very nature is indestructible, and the brain is simply accessing that information (both the "thing itself" and previous brain states).

"However, decreased brain activity actually results in some of the most cogent, hyper aware states of consciousness ever experienced by the subject, in complete contradiction to the standard brain=mind model."

But one can argue that this decreased brain activity consists in the inactivation of inhibitors, although there is still brain activity that generates the experience; I do not say it is so, but it can not be ruled out by the NDE researchers.

"Speaking personally, I am an agnostic with regards to such things as the afterlife, but I am certainly not an agnostic regarding reductive materialism, which is demonstrably false (I can't possibly meaningfully quality that statement here, but hope to write a number of guest posts on this blog when I have chance, outlining some of the main reasons I know this to be the case)."

The opposite happens to me: I think it is most likely that there is a personal afterlife due to some cases of OBEs, NDEs, apparitions of the deceased, mediumship and children who remember their past lives. While I agnostic about materialism because one could always expand its conception to include the afterlife as part of physical world. That field where the nervous system accesses memory could be physical for example.

Juan wrote,

||While I agnostic about materialism because one could always expand its conception to include the afterlife as part of physical world. That field where the nervous system accesses memory could be physical for example.||

We've talked about this a bit on here before, but I think one point bears repeating: materialism as it is currently conceived is what it is because its adherents are atheists who actively disbelieve in the Afterlife, psi, and so on. If proof of psi comes to be accepted by the establishment, I doubt that "materialism" will live on, including the name, as it will be a completely tainted "brand" at that point.

"We've talked about this a bit on here before, but I think one point bears repeating: materialism as it is currently conceived is what it is because its adherents are atheists who actively disbelieve in the Afterlife, psi, and so on."

So let them be called atheists, agnostics, mortalists or psi skeptics, but not materialists, because I use the term "materialism" as used in philosophy, and I believe it is the correct use.

Juan wrote “The opposite happens to me: I think it is most likely that there is a personal afterlife due to some cases of OBEs, NDEs, apparitions of the deceased, mediumship and children who remember their past lives.

Don’t get me wrong. I find some NDE accounts quite convincing, and on balance of probability think they are genuine spiritual experiences (which btw is perfectly compatible with being an agnostic).

“While I agnostic about materialism because one could always expand its conception to include the afterlife as part of physical world. That field where the nervous system accesses memory could be physical for example.”

I would go as far as saying that it is probably misleading to think of the afterlife as being strictly part of a different dimension or reality. But we know even this ‘physical’ world is not actually physical, much less the afterlife. It is all made up of energy, which you surely must agree is not a physical object. Of course it is possible to define the word ‘physical’ in a way in which it will encompass pure energy, but that would be pure semantics.

Julie wrote “But if the brain necessarily influences the structure of consciousness then, surely, there has to be some kind of brain activity at some level for the conscious experience to be structured and recorded in memory when full consciousness re-emerges? Or am I missing something vital in the permutation?”

It is clear that the brain does influence conscious experience as consciousness can be altered by various means, such as drugs, brain damage, etc. However some NDEers state that during the initial stages of the afterlife they continue to think and perceive much like a human does. This human level of perspective allegedly wears off in time however.

I don’t know the precise mechanism responsible for an NDEer remembering an experience which supposedly takes place outside the body. But my inability to specify the precise mechanism responsible does not make what I said contradictory. There are clearly plenty of logical possibilities to explain this.

Well, how long does that electrical surge, be it able to generate consciousness or not (most likely not), last for after cardiac arrest? In people its assumed that for about 20 to 30 seconds after cardiac arrest the brain is still working. That is widely acknowledged in NDE research which is why the results of the AWARE study were so important. Or is that electrical surge supposed to take place right after those 20-30 seconds?

I find it interesting, in this context, to reflect on the fact that few if us even remember our dreams despite there being definite brain activity during their formation. Cells do not 'die' immediately when life ends. Therefore we must (surely?) consider the possibility of neuronal activity within the brain beyond the point of death - for whatever length of time.

Julie wrote: "Cells do not 'die' immediately when life ends. Therefore we must (surely?) consider the possibility of neuronal activity within the brain beyond the point of death - for whatever length of time."

I think you are missing a vital point here Julie. It is not so much whether cells are alive or dead but whether they are functioning. The physiology of cellular activity is quite well understood, and it is well established that cells do not function for very long without oxygen. The cells might be alive but if there is no neural activity then this suggests consciousness might not result from neural activity, would you agree? My TV might not be broken, but if it was switched off I would be quite mystified if there was picture and sound coming from it.

Mark writes: "I think you are missing a vital point here Julie. It is not so much whether cells are alive or dead but whether they are functioning. The physiology of cellular activity is quite well understood, and it is well established that cells do not function for very long without oxygen."

And yet there are many examples of people supposedly dead for *many* hours coming back to life. For instance, some years ago, there was that classic example of the chap who, presumed dead for a day or so, was about to undergo a postmortem only to be saved by the fact that a tiny tear rolled down his cheek and a pathologist's assistant spotted it just as they were about to cut into his body.

I don't know what the exact cellular mechanism is with the NDE experience, but then, as you say, neither do you, and neither does anyone else for that matter. But it does seem to me that when someone has been pronounced dead by all the usual standards of measurement (EEG, pupil dilation reflex etc.) and taken to the mortuary, only to self-revive many hours later, there must be some serious neuronal activity still going on at the cellular level, otherwise the vital functions necessary to sustain the CNS would be lost and the body would begin to decompose. But that's pretty obvious, isn't it?

In short, I suspect that cellular activity continues to sustain the capability for regained consciousness for considerably longer than might generally be accepted. My feeling is that death only truly occurs when that vital, irreversible point in neuronal activity ceases.

But it makes no odds as far as the NDE is concerned. Something turns the death process around before that last moment. What that 'something' is is the essence of the NDE inquiry. Hence the objection that *real* death hadn't occurred at the estimated time of the NDE doesn't necessarily negate the spiritual aspect of the phenomenon.

I don't want to argue about this because I'm not claiming any monopoly on the truth here. I'm simply thinking out loud and I want to see what NDE research discovers in the future with regard to this important point.

Julie said:

"In short, I suspect that cellular activity continues to sustain the capability for regained consciousness for considerably longer than might generally be accepted."

And yet what's astonishing about the NDE (not to argue with you, Julie, because I suspect you'll agree with me) is that at the very moment when body processes are at their lowest ebb, a subject will report having the most profound experience of his or her life.

How and why does the state of least physical viability—to the point of being undetectable—sustain the most efficient memory (NDErs consistently report recovering lost memories from childhood), and the most intense ecstasy?

Not to mention the accurate out-of-body observations that are reported again and again.

Residual cellular activity or no, mainstream science isn't prepared to answer questions like these.

Bruce writes: "How and why does the state of least physical viability—to the point of being undetectable—sustain the most efficient memory (NDErs consistently report recovering lost memories from childhood), and the most intense ecstasy?"

'Tis a profound mystery!

But if consciousness is, as we suppose, in a different dimension during such encounters then it's possible that access to all manner of remembrance and understanding is possible.

But how the memory of such an intense experience is later retrieved - an experience that could not, realistically, have registered within the brain at the time of its occurrence - is the biggest mystery of all to me. Unless such experience breaks down a mental filter that is normally present and thereby allows access to extradimensional memories. After all, if consciousness is not in this dimension, yet still continues, then it must be somewhere else during such encounters. In short . . . . I have absolutely no idea. :)

BTW, why do people under anaesthesia sometimes recall NDE experiences when they have been genuinely close to death during a surgical operation and yet (to my knowledge) not when they are stable throughout the operation?

Ps. Sorry for putting all that rather clumsily, but I've got to dash . . . . I'm off to see a man about a horse. :)

Julie wrote,

||BTW, why do people under anaesthesia sometimes recall NDE experiences when they have been genuinely close to death during a surgical operation and yet (to my knowledge) not when they are stable throughout the operation?||

This seems to be not correct. IIRC, Nanci Danison had her NDE under anesthesia but was never in danger during her procedure.

The thing is, people seem to have a different type of NDE under anesthesia than during, say, cardiac arrest.

Note also, however, that some people have a "regular" NDE under anesthesia if they go into cardiac arrest on the table.

My take is that the anesthesia experiences are not true NDEs but are instead OBEs. There's nothing wrong with that: I've had a lot myself, including visiting the Afterlife/higher dimensions while asleep. But I would not say I've had an NDE per se.

"I find some NDE accounts quite convincing, and on balance of probability think they are genuine spiritual experiences (which btw is perfectly compatible with being an agnostic)."

The issue is whether NDEs are evidence of a afterlife, not if they are genuine spiritual experiences.

"But we know even this ‘physical’ world is not actually physical, much less the afterlife. It is all made up of energy, which you surely must agree is not a physical object."

The energy is physical. Does not physics study it? Physical is what physics are about, not the material objects of everyday life.

Nanci Danison's NDE is somehow just too 'New Agey' for me. That isn't to say it's not authentic. It just doesn't grab me:

http://ndestories.org/nanci-danison/

Well done.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)