Near-death experiences are overwhelmingly peaceful

NEAR-DEATH experiences are rare, but if you have one, it is likely to be overwhelmingly peaceful. Such episodes are often described as emotionally rich, involving out-of-body sensations, tunnels of light and flashbacks. Steven Laureys, a neuroscientist at the University of Liege in Belgium who works with people in comas and vegetative states, started to investigate after his patients told him of their own near-death experiences. There are several hypothesises as to how these events arise, such as lack of oxygen to the brain or damage to areas that control emotion. “So you’d expect to see differences between near-death experiences after drowning and those of other traumas,” he says. His team looked at 190 documented events that resulted from traumas including cardiac arrest, drowning, head injury and high anxiety. Surprisingly, the reports shared many similarities. The most common feature was an overwhelming feeling of peacefulness. The next most common was an out-of-body experience. And many people felt a change in their perception of how time was passing. “It turns out to be not so bad to have a dying experience,” says Laureys. His team will now try to find an objective measure of such experiences by scanning the entire brains of people who say they have just had a near-death experience after a cardiac arrest. The team will look for small scars that might reflect the after-effects of the event (Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, This article appeared in print under the headline “The very bearable lightness of being on the edge of life” More on these topics:
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