Brain Surge May Explain Near Death Experiences

September 26, 2013

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. induce [in-DOOS] (v.) – to lead to a certain state of mind
Example: The drugs from his doctor have induced his sleep.

2. anesthetize [uh-NES-thi-tahyz] (v.) – to cause a loss of consciousness by administering anesthesia
Example: The patient felt numb after being anesthetized.

3. imagery [IM-ij-ree, IM-i-juh-ree] (n.) – a formation of visual images collectively
Example: When dreaming, the brain creates imagery of different things.

3. conscious [KON-shuh s] (adj.) – aware of what is happening around
Example: The doctor felt very conscious of the severe pain Gina is feeling.

5. hallucination [huh-loo-suh-NEY-shuh n] (n.) – an experience involving the apparent perception of something that is not real or not present
Example: He continued to suffer from horrific hallucinations.


Read the text below.
A mysterious surge of brain activity observed in dying rats may explain reports of near-death experiences (NDEs). 

About 20% of the people who survive cardiac arrest appear to have visions during a period known to doctors as clinical death. The phenomenon behind NDEs is generally characterized with a feeling of being out of body or going through a tunnel toward a bright light.

To study this mysterious brain activity, neurologist Jimo Borjigin and his colleagues from the University of Michigan conducted an experiment. It involved recording electroencephalogram (EEG) signals in nine rats that were anesthetized before inducing cardiac arrest.

Surprisingly, even after the animals' hearts stopped beating and no blood was reaching their brains, they still showed signs of conscious perception and exceeded levels of electrical activity in the brain.

Borjigin noted that the rats' visual cortex, which processes visual imagery, was also highly activated, which may be why the NDEs are so clear. He added that the same thing would most likely occur in the human brain. An elevated level of brain activity and consciousness could also give rise to near-death visions in humans.

Although the study might shed light on the human condition at the moment of death, Nicholas Schiff of the Weill Cornell Medical College does not see a direct connection between the results and the NDEs. Many scientists still believe that near death experiences are nothing more than hallucinations induced by the shutting down of the brain.

According to Schiff, more studies should be conducted before concluding that a similar surge in rats’ brain activity would also translate to the humans’ case.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you believe in near-death experiences? Why or why not?
·         How do you think a near death experience can affect a person’s life? Please explain your answer.

Discussion B

·         What do you think can happen if the brain malfunctions? Please briefly explain.
·         In your opinion, what is the significance of studying the brain? Please explain your answer.


September 26, 2013