Scientific advances in the 20th and 21st centuries have led to a major evolution in the understanding of death. At the same time, for decades, people who have survived an encounter with death have recalled unexplained lucid episodes involving heightened consciousness and awareness. These have been reported using the popular—yet scientifically ill-defined—term “near-death experiences.”
The researchers on the study represent many medical disciplines, including the neurosciences, critical care, psychiatry, psychology, social sciences, and humanities, and represent many of the world’s most respected academic institutions including Harvard University, Baylor University, the University of California, Riverside, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, the Medical College of Wisconsin, the University Hospital Southampton, and King’s College, London.
Among their conclusions are the following:
- Due to advances in resuscitation and critical care medicine, many people have survived encounters with death or being near-death. These people—who are estimated to comprise hundreds of millions of people around the world based on previous population studies—have consistently described recalled experiences surrounding death, which involve a unique set of mental recollections with universal themes.
- The recalled experiences surrounding death are not consistent with hallucinations, illusions, or psychedelic drug–induced experiences, according to several previously published studies. Instead, they follow a specific narrative arc involving a perception of (a) separation from the body with a heightened, vast sense of consciousness and recognition of death; (b) travel to a destination; (c) a meaningful and purposeful review of life, involving a critical analysis of all actions, intentions, and thoughts towards others; a perception of (d) being in a place that feels like “home”; and (e) a return back to life.
- The experience of death culminates into previously unidentified, separate subthemes and is associated with positive long-term psychological transformation and growth.
- Studies showing the emergence of gamma activity and electrical spikes—ordinarily a sign of heightened states of consciousness on electroencephalography (EEG)—in relation to death further support the claims of millions of people who have reported experiencing lucidity and heightened consciousness in relation to death.
- Frightening or distressing experiences in relation to death often neither share the same themes, nor the same narrative, transcendent qualities, ineffability, and positive transformative effects.
Release date: 12 April 2022
Source: NYU Grossman School of Medicine