New study shows “Life After Death”?

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.

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