The traditional threshold of death has been extended with the use of modern resucitation techniques employed in cases of cardiac arrest, and the AWARE study explored the growing number of reports of near-death experiences of those revived.
Thousands, if not millions of people now have been known to regain consciousness after the moment of death, and in response scientists believe your brain cells don’t immediately disintegrate when the brain no longer functions, but it may take time, possibly hours, until all the individual neurons die.
In the current study, Dr. Sam Parnia designed and conducted the AWARE study — AWAreness during REsuscitation — in order to iron out some of these issues. In particular, Parnia wanted to understand the quality of oxygen getting into the brain in order to improve resuscitation techniques, while also exploring the many different reports of those who were revived following cardiac arrest (CA). The four-year observational study used a three-stage interview process by which the researchers tested the accuracy of claims of visual and auditory awareness/memories during cardiac arrest and then objectively verified these claims.
Among 2,060 people who experienced cardiac arrest, 330 survived and of these survivors 140 reported at least partial awareness at the time of resuscitation. Nearly half (46 percent) had memories with seven major themes: fear; animals/plants; bright light; violence/persecution; deja-vu; family; and recalling events post-cardiac arrest. Two percent described awareness with explicit recall of seeing and hearing actual events related to their resuscitation.
Many people believe in the moment, Sam Parnia noted that he’s resuscitated “hundreds, if not more,” patients, and cardiac arrest is very well understood. “Zero blood is getting into their brain, and it does stop functioning within seconds,” he explained. However, the data suggest that “so-called out of body experiences cannot be defined as hallucination,” he said, adding that consciousness “disappears from the general view,” with doctors unable to detect any signs of it following clinical death.