OK, so this paper published just recently is getting a lot of interesting but confusing press. It’s being reported that they found evidence of “life after death”. Having studied this for a while, I want to clear things up a bit. The reality is that a) yes, this is calling into question something that is widely accepted as established scientific truth; but b) as is so often the case, the new truth is actually not ZOMG ITS A MIRACLE, it’s just an adjustment of some parameters. To wit, the “accepted truth” is that (roughly speaking) no awareness or cognitive processing is possible more than a few seconds after the onset of “cerebral hypoperfusion”, i.e. no more blood flow to the brain. The thing being implied here is that some kind of conscious (or conscious-like) awareness is actually possible for (at least) minutes at a time during cerebral hypoperfusion, and that this consciousness can occur without any external signs (i.e. the people look like they’re unconscious.) This is a pretty big an interesting finding, but it’s also not as miraculous as it sounds; it’s more one of these things where scientists are going to have to reverse their absolutism about a misconception that only ever existed in the first place because a previous generation of scientists put it in place. Notably, the researchers here attempted to explicitly test the possibility of disembodied awareness by having a secret image on top of a high shelf, which the patients couldn’t see from their beds, but they did not find any evidence of anyone seeing this image. So this is a very exciting finding because it opens the door to a lot of neuroscience work on how neural processing might be happening at some sort of lower-energy state of metabolic activity; not because it implies anything miraculous. Also this is probably not news to a lot of people like Mélanie Boly who do research on EEG and minimal states of consciousness.
David M. Perlman, Ph.D. 1 Minute
Published by David M. Perlman, Ph.D.
Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology. UX research consultant. Caltech applied physics. Data science, politics, economics, behavioral economics, integrative systemic analysis. View all posts by David M. Perlman, Ph.D.