(ORDO NEWS) — In cinema and literature, we often hear the phrase: “My whole life flashed before my eyes.” It is spoken by people who are in mortal danger. And maybe this is actually happening.
An international team of researchers has captured the activity of a dying human brain for the first time, revealing brainwave patterns associated with processes such as dreaming and memory.
Initially, the goal of the study was not to measure brain activity at the time of death. Scientists got this data by accident.
The authors of the work continuously monitored the brain waves of an 87-year-old patient with epilepsy using an EEG to monitor seizures. However, during treatment, the patient suddenly had a heart attack and died.
Thus, the researchers were able to record 15 minutes of brain activity at the time of death. They focused on the 30 seconds before and after the heart stopped beating and found increased activity in types of brain waves known as gamma waves. They are involved in processes such as dreaming, meditation and memory recovery.
“By generating oscillations involved in memory retrieval, the brain can recall last memories of important life events just before death, similar to those reported in near-death experiences,” said Dr. Ajmal Zemmar, lead author of the study.
“These findings challenge our understanding of exactly when life ends and raise important follow-up questions, such as those related to the timing of organ donation.”
The team says the observations show the brain is capable of coordinated activity even after blood stops flowing through it.
Similar changes in gamma rhythms during death have previously been found in rats, but this is the first time such activity has been found in humans.
Of course, the results should be treated with some caution, the authors stressed. The data comes from only one patient, and his brain was damaged and was subject to unusual activity associated with epilepsy.
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