Does life really flash before our eyes on death? Brain study provides clues

death, dying patient, final moments, dead, flashbacks
A team of researchers unexpectedly discovered the very first recording of a dying brain.
Photo credit: SHUTTERSTOCK

What you need to know:

  • The medics had embarked on measuring the brainwaves of an 87-year-old epileptic patient.
  • The patient provided unanticipated recording of a brain that was dying when he suffered a sudden fatal heart attack during the neurological recording.

A new study has revealed what it is like moments before a human being dies.

The latest “accidental’ findings illustrate near-death-experiences by showing how the brain is able to recall the final moments shortly before and after the heart stops beating.

The research published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience journal found that life may “actually flash before a person’s eyes as they die.”

Led by Dr Ajmal Zemmar, who co-authored the study, the team of researchers based in Vancouver, Canada, unexpectedly discovered the very first recording of a dying brain.

According to the scientists, such activity of the brain may imply that a man’s final moments could reveal a last “recall of life.”

The lead researcher, however, explained that it is impossible to tell whether human beings can get flashbacks of happy memories or their time with their loved ones

“If I was to use the philosophical realm, my speculations would be that the brain had a flashback, that it would probably like to remind a person of good rather than the bad things,”

“But what is memorable to one person would be totally different for every other person,” explained Dr Zemmar.

The medics had embarked on measuring the brainwaves of an 87-year-old epileptic patient.

The patient provided unanticipated recording of a brain that was dying when he suffered a sudden fatal heart attack during the neurological recording.

“We did not plan to record these signals or conduct this experiment. It was completely unexpected,” stated the medic.

The recordings indicated that the same patterns as recalling memories or dreaming were followed by human brainwaves 30 seconds before and after their brain shuts down.

The patient’s brainwaves followed similar patterns as when conducting highly cognitive and demanding tasks such as recalling memories, dreaming or concentrating, in the 30 seconds before the heart stopped blood supply to the brain.

This activity continued for 30 seconds after the heart of the patient stopped beating — the point at which a patient is normally declared dead — observed the scientist who is also a neurosurgeon at the University of Louisville.

“This is likely a final recall of the last memories that a person experienced in life. The flashbacks play out in the patient’s brain before they die,” he remarked.

The watershed research raises key questions such as when exactly does life end? Is it when the brain stops functioning or when the heart stops beating?

The researchers have, however, cautioned against making such broad conclusions from a single research.

This is compounded by the fact that data was derived from a patient suffering from epilepsy, who had a bleeding and swollen brain. 

“I have never felt comfortable reporting about a single case study,” offered Dr Zemmur.

Since the first recording in 2016, the scholar has unsuccessfully searched for similar findings to help reinforce the analysis.

A previous research conducted on healthy rats by the United States statisticians in 2013 came close to offering a hint.

Just like the findings in Dr Zemmar’s research involving an epileptic patient, the survey by US scientists indicated high levels of brainwaves at the point of the death until 30 seconds after the hearts of rats stopped beating.

“These similarities in both studies are extremely astonishing. I think there is something spiritual and mystical concerning this whole near-death experience,”

“And scientists live for findings like these,” remarked the medic.

The scientists are upbeat that the landmark case study will usher in other surveys regarding the final moments of human life.

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.