By Peter McLaren-Kennedy • 23 February 2022 • 19:29
A man who was attached to a machine to scan for brain seizures has allowed scientists to accidentally record his brain as he dies from a heart attack. The sad turn of events has provided insight in to what might happen moments before we die.
The study, published in Frontiers In Aging Neuroscience, focused on an 87-year-old man who was hooked up to an electroencephalogram as he was being treated for epilepsy. The machine records brain activity and allows doctors and scientists to look for brain seizures, however the patient died from a heart attack during the scan.
The electroencephalogram continued recording his brain activity, including during the 15 minutes prior to his death, allowing scientists to see what happened in the final moments of the man’s life.
What they found was an increase in gamma waves, brain waves that are associated with more sophisticated cognitive functions and are especially active when we are concentrating, dreaming and meditating, as well as retrieving memories and processing information.
The recorded brain waves known as gamma oscillations, suggest that, as we die, we experience the same neural activity as during dreaming, recalling memories, or meditating.
The findings raises the question of whether our lives really do “flash before our eyes” in our final moments.
Dr Ajmal Zemmar, a neurosurgeon at the University of Louisville, who led the study, told ZME Science: “These findings challenge our understanding of when exactly life ends and generate important subsequent questions, such as those related to the timing of organ donation.”
He added: “As a neurosurgeon, I deal with loss at times.
“It is indescribably difficult to deliver the news of death to distraught family members.
“Something we may learn from this research is that, although our loved ones have their eyes closed and are ready to leave us to rest, their brains may be replaying some of the nicest moments they experienced in their lives.”
Those involved in the research have issued a caution, saying that this was the first recording of its kind and involved a brain that was already damaged due the patient’s epilepsy.
Accidentally recording a man’s brain as he dies provides valuable insight and will pave the way for further research, and a greater understanding of how the brain works and what happens when we die.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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