A dying epilepsy patient’s unexpected brain scan revealed bursts of activity associated with memory recall, meditation, and dreaming
A team of researchers set out to measure the brainwaves of an 87-year-old man who had developed epilepsy. However, the patient suffered a heart attack and died during the neurological recording (electroencephalogram, or EEG). This unexpected event allowed the scientists to record the activity of a dying human brain for the first time ever.
For centuries, what happens inside your brain during these experiences and after death has puzzled neuroscientists. According to the study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, the brain may remain active and coordinated during and even after death and may be programmed to “flash your life before our eyes.”
Upon investigating what happened in the 30 seconds before and after the heart stopped beating, the neuroscientists saw changes in a specific band of neural oscillations, so-called gamma oscillations, and in others such as delta and theta alpha, and beta oscillations.
Brain oscillations, or brain waves, are patterns of rhythmic brain activity normally present in living human brains. Oscillations of various sorts, including gamma, are engaged in high-cognitive tasks like concentrating, dreaming, meditation, memory retrieval, information processing, and conscious perception, as well as memory flashbacks.
By generating oscillations involved in memory retrieval, the brain may be playing the last recall of important life events just before we die, known as ‘life recall,’ similar to those reported in near-death experiences.
While this is the first study of its kind to measure live brain activity in humans during the process of dying, the measurements are based on a single case and come from the brain of a patient who had suffered an injury, seizures, and swelling, thereby complicating the interpretation of the data.
Previously, similar changes in gamma oscillations were observed in rats kept in controlled environments. These topics have implications for end-of-life care, organ donation, or understanding the exact process of death.
Source: Frontiers Science News