X-Message-Number: 16743
Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 19:16:45 -0400
From: <>
Subject: Sam Parnia's research on near death experience

This article was sent to me (regarding near death experience).

It reminds me of some of the things George S has posted here.

Mind continues after brain dies, scientist says

By Sarah Tippit

Posted June 28 2001, 12:05 PM EDT

LOS ANGELES -- A British scientist studying heart attack patients says he is
finding evidence that suggests that consciousness may continue after the
brain has stopped functioning and a patient is clinically dead.

The research, presented to scientists last week at the California Institute
of Technology, resurrects the debate over whether there is life after death
and whether there is such a thing as the human soul.

``The studies are very significant in that we have a group of people with no
brain function ... who have well-structured, lucid thought processes with
reasoning and memory formation at a time when their brains are shown not to
function,'' Sam Parnia, one of two doctors from Southampton General Hospital
in England who have been studying so-called near-death experiences (NDEs),
told Reuters in an interview.

``We need to do much larger-scale studies, but the possibility is certainly
there'' to suggest that consciousness, or the soul, keeps thinking and
reasoning even if a person's heart has stopped, he is not breathing and his
brain activity is nil, Parnia said.

He said he and colleagues conducted an initial year-long study, the results
of which appeared in the February issue of the journal Resuscitation. The
study was so promising the doctors formed a foundation to fund further
research and continue collecting data.

During the initial study, Parnia said, 63 heart attack patients who were
deemed clinically dead but were later revived were interviewed within a week
of their experiences.

Of those, 56 said they had no recollection of the time they were unconscious
and seven reported having memories. Of those, four were labeled NDEs in that
they reported lucid memories of thinking, reasoning, moving about and
communicating with others after doctors determined their brains were not


Among other things, the patients reported remembering feelings of peace, joy
and harmony. For some, time sped up, senses heightened and they lost
awareness of their bodies.

The patients also reported seeing a bright light, entering another realm and
communicating with dead relatives. One, who called himself a lapsed Catholic
and Pagan, reported a close encounter with a mystical being.

Near-death experiences have been reported for centuries but in Parnia's
study none of the patients were found to have received low oxygen levels,
which some skeptics believe may contribute to the phenomenon.

When the brain is deprived of oxygen people become totally confused, thrash
around and usually have no memories at all, Parnia said.

``Here you have a severe insult to the brain but perfect memory.''

Skeptics have also suggested that patients' memories occurred in the moments
they were leaving or returning to consciousness. But Parnia said when a
brain is traumatized by a seizure or car wreck a patient generally does not
remember moments just before or after losing consciousness.

Rather, there is usually a memory lapse of hours or days.

''Talk to them. They'll tell you something like: 'I just remember seeing the
car and the next thing I knew I was in the hospital,''' he said.

``With cardiac arrest, the insult to the brain is so severe it stops the
brain completely. Therefore, I would expect profound memory loss before and
after the incident,'' he added.

Since the initial experiment, Parnia and his colleagues have found more than
3,500 people with lucid memories that apparently occurred at times they were
thought to be clinically dead. Many of the patients, he said, were reluctant
to share their experiences fearing they would be thought crazy.


One patient was 2-1/2 years old when he had a seizure and his heart stopped.
His parents contacted Parnia after the boy ''drew a picture of himself as if
out of his body looking down at himself. It was drawn like there was a
balloon stuck to him. When they asked what the balloon was he said, 'When
you die you see a bright light and you are connected to a cord.' He wasn't
even 3 when had the experience,'' Parnia said.

``What his parents noticed was that after he had been discharged from
hospital, six months after the incident, he kept drawing the same scene.''

The brain function these patients were found to have while unconscious is
commonly believed to be incapable of sustaining lucid thought processes or
allowing lasting memories to form, Parnia said -- pointing to the fact that
nobody fully grasps how the brain generates thoughts.

The brain itself is made up of cells, like all the body's organs, and is not
really capable of producing the subjective phenomenon of thought that people
have, he said.

He speculated that human consciousness may work independently of the brain,
using the gray matter as a mechanism to manifest the thoughts, just as a
television set translates waves in the air into picture and sound.

``When you damage the brain or lose some of the aspects of mind or
personality, that doesn't necessarily mean the mind is being produced by the
brain. All it shows is that the apparatus is damaged,'' Parnia said, adding
that further research might reveal the existence of a soul.

``When these people are having experiences they say, 'I had this intense
pain in my chest and suddenly I was drifting in the corner of my room and I
was so happy, so comfortable. I looked down and realized I was seeing my
body and doctors all around me trying to save me and I didn't want to go

``The point is they are describing seeing this thing in the room, which is
their body. Nobody ever says, 'I had this pain and the next thing I knew my
soul left me.' ''

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