Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Glimpsing life after death?

The Telegraph ran a story recently with the sensationalist headline of 'First hint of 'life after death' in biggest ever scientific study'. That sounds like some pretty big news! Lets take a look at this ground-breaking story...
The largest ever medical study into near-death and out-of-body experiences has discovered that some awareness may continue even after the brain has shut down completely.
When it comes to scientific studies, the bigger the better. Tell me more.
And they found that nearly 40 per cent of people who survived described some kind of ‘awareness’ during the time when they were clinically dead before their hearts were restarted. 
Awareness? I thought there was supposed to be the first evidence of life after death in here. After all, 'clinical death' isn't the same as that big final death we all will face. But then again, maybe I'm speaking too soon. Continue...
“We know the brain can’t function when the heart has stopped beating,” said Dr Sam Parnia, a former research fellow at Southampton University, now at the State University of New York, who led the study.
What!? There's a huge problem here. We don't actually know that the brain stops instantly as soon as the heart does. It's actually pretty standard knowledge that the brain can, and usually does live for a few seconds after the heart stops and has been know outlive the heart by a few minutes pretty often. If you have the right drugs in your system, it could last longer. There is still oxygen in the blood to be used even if the heart isn't pumping. And if you are under stress these experiences of awareness could conceivably be down to increased blood flow before the heart stopped, and a high dose of hormones being introduced to your system.
But in this case, conscious awareness appears to have continued for up to three minutes into the period when the heart wasn’t beating, even though the brain typically shuts down within 20-30 seconds after the heart has stopped.
Wait, wait, wait... First he says the brain stops instantaneously, then he says it dies 20-30 seconds later. So he's contradicting himself in this story! Also, the brain working for three minutes after the heart stopped is far from unheard of. It's actually in the realm of what can be expected.
The man described everything that had happened in the room, but importantly, he heard two bleeps from a machine that makes a noise at three minute intervals. So we could time how long the experienced lasted for.
So? If his brain was working and was aware, then he could still hear. He wasn't even dead... Where is the mystery?
He seemed very credible and everything that he said had happened to him had actually happened.
He seemed credible? So can habitual liars and sociopaths. 'Seemed credible' doesn't sound scientific at all.
One man even recalled leaving his body entirely and watching his resuscitation from the corner of the room. 
The brain is an amazing thing. Even if we can't see something, our other senses can form a picture for our mind. What we've seen in life and on film can influence our expectations and those images as well. All of us have first-hand experience in this phenomenon whenever we dream.

The brain forms pictures for us that we aren't actually seeing. Bright light from a window or flashlight may become light at the end of a tunnel or the bright Summer Sun. The sounds around us can also find their way into dreams. How often has you alarm-clock buzzer played a different part in your dreams? I've had my wife talk to me when I was asleep, only to find her words influenced my dream. And I've found that the type of music I play while my wife sleeps has influenced the type of dreams she has as well.
Although many could not recall specific details, some themes emerged. One in five said they had felt an unusual sense of peacefulness while nearly one third said time had slowed down or speeded [sic] up. 
 If some had time speed up and some had it slow down, isn't that an inconsistency? If it was truly the afterlife, I would expect things to be the same for all. It actually sounds more like the subjective experience of an aware brain doing what it does.
Some recalled seeing a bright light; a golden flash or the Sun shining. Others recounted feelings of fear or drowning or being dragged through deep water.
Like when a doctor shines a light in the eyes of a patient to check for responsiveness? Or feeling like your airway is restricted due to having a respirator mask strapped to your face, injuries, chest compressions, or actually taking on fluids or having internal bleeding?
13 per cent said they had felt separated from their bodies and the same number said their sensed had been heightened.
Out of body... Take a look at dreams again. And as for the senses, shouldn't that be expected. A brain full of adrenalin means everything is heightened. Also, suppose the patients eyes are closed so they can't see. It's been well documented that some senses can become heightened and more sensitive when one is lost or unavailable.

Interestingly enough, the same group that did this test did another where pictures were placed on shelves so that they could only be seen from the ceiling so there was no way the patient would know they were there. So if the patient claimed an out-of-body experience and mentioned the picture, it would suggest that they really were looking down on themselves. What did the test show? That no one saw the pictures.
Of 2060 cardiac arrest patients studied, 330 survived and of 140 surveyed, 39 per cent said they had experienced some kind of awareness while being resuscitated.
Wait... So out of 2,060 people, only 330 survived. That means it was a 330 person study, not 2,060. 330 is quite a small sample size. And of the 39% that were aware... That's not surprising since the brain doesn't die instantly when the heart does.

This article claims that we've finally sniffed scientific evidence for the after-life, yet it shows nothing of the sort.The biggest news here is that the brain can live 3 minutes after the heart stops. But then again... We already knew that.

-Brain Hulk

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