Near-death experiences that have been widely reported by patients now have a scientific explanation. This phenomenon is thought to be caused by the abnormal functioning of dopamine and oxygen flow.
The scientists published their findings in the journal Trends of Cognitive Sciences. Approximately 3% of the US population reports to have had a near-death experience, and they have been widely reported since ancient Greece. One study reported that many of people experiencing near-death experiences weren’t actually in danger of dying, though most thought they were.
This feeling is also common in patients with Cotard or walking corpse syndrome. They hold the delusional belief that they are deceased, and this occurs generally following trauma, such as the advanced stages of typhoid or multiple sclerosis.
The use of a number of medicinal or recreational drugs can often mirror the euphoria felt in near-death experiences, such as ketamine. All of the features of near-death experiences have some basis in normal brain function that has gone awry.
There is a problem with being able to analyze these near-death experiences experimentally instead of anecdotally but there is hope using cognitive neuroscience. Researchers might be able to duplicate these sensations by stimulating brain funciton in the lab, without putting anyone’s life in danger.
Reference: “There is nothing paranormal about near-death experiences: how neuroscience can explain seeing bright lights, meeting the dead, or being convinced you are one of them” by Dean Mobbs and Caroline Watt, 17 August 2011, Trends of Cognitive Sciences.