Researchers have observed an increase in brainwave activity, reminiscent of a moment of consciousness, in coma patients just before their death. According to them, the discovery may help to understand the state of consciousness in dying people.
The study was published May 1 in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Researchers at the University of Michigan say they have been able to observe in coma patients just before their death a moment of activity in the brain characteristic of consciousness.
A moment of awareness just before death
The British media that covered the study’s results note that so far, people who have come close to death have often later said that they remember a bright light at the end of the tunnel, feeling the presence of loved ones or floating above their own body. Scientists have wondered for years whether these similar sensations have any biological basis – reminds “Independent”.
Researchers from the University of Michigan analyzed the brain function of four patients. Each of them was in the hospital in a coma, connected to life support machines, and their brains were monitored by EEG recordings. In the case of each of these patients, the doctors decided that their lives could not be saved and, with the consent of the family, they were disconnected from the apparatus, followed by cardiac arrest and death. The researchers looked at EEG data from their brain activity right after they were unplugged, right up to the time they died. Two patients experienced an increase in heart rate and a burst of gamma wave activity, considered the fastest of the brain waves and associated with consciousness. According to the study’s lead author Jimo Borjigin, this may suggest that the patients were “innerly awake,” but the researchers could not pinpoint what human experience their observation could be compared to. “It could be the activation of the inner hidden consciousness, the extraction of memories from the past, the mechanism of brain survival, but we don’t know that,” Borjigin pointed out.
The other two patients did not show the same symptoms. The researchers indicated that due to the small sample size of the study, no final conclusions should be drawn about their findings. However, they stressed that the results were “definitely exciting” and could provide a new basis for understanding the state of consciousness in dying people.
“Independent” reminds that last year, in another, similar study, Estonian scientists analyzed the work of the brain of a dying 87-year-old patient. Just before his death, they observed an increase in activity similar to sleep or recollection, which led them to conclude that the man was probably recalling his life for the last time.
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