Cayman Islands, Caribbeanand International News
Tuesday, Jun 06, 2023

The mystery of what happens when we die: solved

The mystery of what happens when we die: solved

New research suggests the point we’ve traditionally called “death” might have been a few seconds too early

One of the questions everyone wants the answer to may have been solved by accident. A groundbreaking study offers hard new evidence that, at the moment we shuffle off this mortal coil, our life really does flash before our eyes, challenging the very understanding of the time at which death actually occurs.

Dr Ajmal Zemmar, a neurosurgeon at the University of Louisville, in the US, stumbled across something so deep, it throws doubt over when a person truly dies. He was treating an 87-year-old patient, who had a bleed between the brain and skull. Although Zemmar removed the clot, the patient began having seizures, so an electroencephalogram (EEG) was attached to record his brain activity. This was all routine.

“The thing that changed the standard was this: while the EEG was recording, the patient suffered a cardiac arrest and died. So, now, all of a sudden, we have the first-ever recording from life to death in the human brain,” Zemmar told RT.

To the layperson it might not sound that profound, but there are a few reasons such activity has never been recorded before. First, it’s impossible to know when someone will die in order to be ready to measure it. And, second, the accepted way to measure life is by recording a heartbeat - that is, the activity of the heart, rather than the brain.

“What we do as standard is record EKG [electrocardiogram] activity. When we have a patient in the ICU, we don’t, as standard, record EEG,” explained Zemmar. “So, one thing our study might open up for discussion is this: is it worthwhile considering recording EEG? When do we die – is it when the heart stops beating or when the brain stops reacting?”

Zemmar and his colleague Professor Raul Vicente Zafra of the University of Tartu, in Estonia, and their team recently published a paper titled ‘Enhanced Interplay of Neuronal Coherence and Coupling in the Dying Human Brain’. By analysing the readings, they saw a spike in brain activity after ‘death’.

“There’s a frequency called the gamma band, which is electrical activity in your brain going up and down 40 or 50 times per second … And we saw that, after cardiac arrest, the power of this rhythm increased,” said Vicente. “We also saw the power increase in this same frequency range when someone was engaged in activities like memorising a list of words, for example.”

Based on the data the researchers collated, the idea of our life flashing before our eyes at great speed when we die is a serious possibility. Such oscillations occur for a full 30 seconds before death, if we have the misfortune to suffer a cardiac arrest.

In Zemmar’s view, a previous paper offers further confirmation of this theory: “In a study in rats that was done nine years ago by colleagues in the United States, they saw very similar findings around the time of death in those that had no injury and had a clean, healthy brain. In these rats, they were observing very similar findings to what we’re seeing in the human brain.”

Zemmar’s and Vicente’s team kept their research on ice as they analysed their findings, but now they’ve published it and are posing some very big questions.

“One of the things we would like to open up for discussion is this: if, when we say the patient ‘died’, we refer to the time when their heart stopped, is that correct? Because, if their brain keeps going, are they really dead? ” Zemmar speculated. “We would rather say, in this case, that, after the heart stopped pumping blood, we recorded 30 seconds of activity in the brain. To us, the patient was not yet dead, by definition.”

As testament to how big these findings could be, the study has garnered global interest. But It’s been hard work for Zemmar and Vicente to ensure their study is as robust as possible.

“We’ve been working on this data set for quite some time – that’s something people don’t realise – so it’s very nice now to get the rewards and the attention, and see them being interested. All this analysis takes time and it’s been the work of months, if not years,” explained Vicente.

The neuroscientists do appreciate, however, that they have data from only one patient and that the extreme nature of collecting similar data means it’s unlikely their research will be repeated on a mass scale.

“We have one case, and one is better than none. We’ve waited for quite some time to go out with this, hoping there would be more people coming along to give us more cases, but there simply aren’t any,” Zemmar said.

Some might still be wondering why they can’t just repeat their research. “The difficulty is we would have to speak with families and say, ‘In the last moments, would you be OK with us doing an experiment?’ Even if families would agree to this, you can’t predict death,” explained Zemmar. “So, when the patient dies and you keep them artificially alive with machines and put on electrodes, I don’t know how much true brain activity you would capture and how much would be the brain saying goodbye and the heart artificially working.”

He and Vicente hope that, by releasing their data, they will prompt other scientists with relevant research to share it with them so further conclusions can be drawn in what is surely one of the most defining scientific studies in history, calling into question the very idea of death.

“There is no scientific evidence that the patient would really have died when the heart stopped beating, if you just look at the pure data we have. It might be a few seconds later, maybe in some other patients it’s a few seconds less or more. I don’t know. But it’s fair to say, maybe what we declared as death was a few seconds too early,” said Zemmar.

It could be different for each individual. Is it 20 seconds? 45 seconds? 90 seconds?

Speaking to RT via Zoom, both men were beaming and clearly proud their work is receiving so much positive attention. It could also cap an incredible rise for Zemmar, who, as a refugee, fled Afghanistan aged six with his parents, arriving in Berlin just three days before the wall came down in 1989. He was raised there before pursuing a career in neuroscience internationally.

“The moment we saw similar findings to what they had seen in the rat study… those are the moments you live for as a scientist. It’s like when a soccer player wins the World Cup. It was one of the most unforgettable moments we’ve ever had,” he said.

Of course, what happens when we die is not only a scientific question, but a spiritual one. Ironically, this study might actually be of more use to the living than the dead. “I’ve received messages from friends and patients who recently lost a family member,” said Zemmar. “They said the idea that their loved one might have been having a flashback of the nicest moments of the life that they’d experienced together gave them calm at the moment they had to say goodbye.”

AI Disclaimer: An advanced artificial intelligence (AI) system generated the content of this page on its own. This innovative technology conducts extensive research from a variety of reliable sources, performs rigorous fact-checking and verification, cleans up and balances biased or manipulated content, and presents a minimal factual summary that is just enough yet essential for you to function as an informed and educated citizen. Please keep in mind, however, that this system is an evolving technology, and as a result, the article may contain accidental inaccuracies or errors. We urge you to help us improve our site by reporting any inaccuracies you find using the "Contact Us" link at the bottom of this page. Your helpful feedback helps us improve our system and deliver more precise content. When you find an article of interest here, please look for the full and extensive coverage of this topic in traditional news sources, as they are written by professional journalists that we try to support, not replace. We appreciate your understanding and assistance.

Related Articles

Nvidia Joins Tech Giants as First Chipmaker to Reach $1 Trillion Valuation
Drone Attack on Moscow's Wealthiest Neighborhoods Suspected to be Launched by Ukraine
AI ‘extinction’ should be same priority as nuclear war – experts
Prominent Hacker Forum RaidForums Suffers Substantial Data Breach
Nvidia CEO Huang says firms, individuals without AI expertise will be left behind
WPP Revolutionizes Advertising with NVIDIA's AI Powerhouse
Two US Employees Fired For Chasing Robbers Out Of Store As They Broke ''Company Policy''
If you donated to BLM, you got played
Pfizer, the EU, and disappearing ink - Smoke, Mirrors, and the Billion-Dose Pfizer Vaccine Deal: EU's 'Open Secret
Actor Tom Hanks told Harvard University graduates to be superheroes in their defense of truth and American ideals, and to resist those who twist the truth for their own gain
The Sussexes' Royal Rebound: Could Harry and Meghan Markle Return to the UK?
A provocative study suggests: Left-Wing Extremism and its Unsettling Connection to Psychopathy and Narcissism
France Arrests 10 on Suspicion of Failing to Respond in Time to Migrant Drowning
Neuralink Receives FDA Approval for First-in-Human Clinical Study
Is Saudi Arabia the holiest place in the world? Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions from "The Mount Sinai Stand" Discovered in Saudi Arabia
Ukrainian Intelligence Official Admits to Assassination Attempts on Putin
Bernard Arnault Loses $11.2 Billion in One Day as Investors Fear Slowdown in US Growth Will Reduce Demand for Luxury Products
Russian’s Wagner Group leader: “I am not a chef, I am a butcher. Russia is in danger of a revolution like in 1917.”
TikTok Sues Montana Over Law Banning the App
Ron DeSantis Jumps Into 2024 Presidential Race, Setting Up Showdown With Trump
Last Walmart in North Portland Closing Down
Florida's DeSantis seeks to disqualify judge in Disney case
Talks between US House Republicans and President Biden's Democratic administration on raising the federal government's $31.4tn debt ceiling have paused
Biden Administration Eyeing High-Profile Visits to China: The Biden Administration is heating things up by looking into setting up a series of top-level visits to Beijing by top officials in the coming months
New evidence in special counsel probe may undercut Trump’s claim documents he took were automatically declassified
A French court of appeals confirmed former President Nicolas Sarkozy's three-year jail term for corruption and influence peddling
Debt Ceiling Crises Have Unleashed Political Chaos
Weibao Wang, a former software engineer at Apple, was charged with stealing trade secrets related to autonomous systems, including self-driving cars
Mobile phone giant Vodafone to cut 11,000 jobs globally over three years as new boss says its performance not good enough
Elon Musk compares George Soros to Magneto, the supervillain from the Marvel Comics series.
Warren Buffett Sells TSMC Shares Over Concerns About Taiwan's Stability
New Study Finds That Secondary Bacterial Pneumonia Is a Major Cause of Death in COVID-19 Patients Who Require Ventilator Assistance
The Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines calls the British monarchy "an absurdity" he wants to remove in his lifetime
King Charles III being crowned.
'Godfather Of AI' Geoffrey Hinton Quits Google To Warn Of The Tech's Dangers
A Real woman
Vermont Man Charged with Stalking After Secretly Tracking Woman with Apple AirTag
Elon Musk Statements About Tesla Autopilot Could Be 'Deepfakes,' Lawyers Claim. Judge Evette Pennypacker Does Not Understand How Far and Advanced This Technology Became
Ukraine More Prepared for Counterattack as Reinforcements Arrive
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni Discuss Migration, Defence, and Ukraine
AT&T's Successful Test of Satellite-Based Phone Call Raises Possibility of Widespread Coverage
CNN: "Joe Biden is asking for four more years — when 74% of Americans think the country is heading the wrong way“
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Cuts Short Live TV Interview Due to Health Issue
US Congresswoman threaten Twitter Files journalist with arrest
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh slams New York Times' pro-government stance and treatment of sources
Enough is enough: it's time to end the war in Ukraine. While Russia may be to blame for starting it, Russia is not the one refusing to stop it
Fox News Settles their case with Dominion Voting Systems for a staggering $787.5 MILLION
AG decries scapegoating and rushed lawmaking by government
The land of the free violence
21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guard member Jack Teixeira has been arrested for leaking classified Pentagon Documents