One of the phenomena that have fascinated humans the most for centuries are the so-called near-death experiences (NDEs), which are those physical and spiritual sensations in the form of hallucinations, out-of-body impressions, accelerated thoughts or a distorted sense of time. Although they are conscious perceptions, they are still a mystery even to the scientists themselves, as has been evident in the last Congress of the European Academy of Neurology, held in Oslo.
Researchers at the Copenhagen Hospital, the Center for Stroke Research in Berlin and the University of Trondheim in Norway have presented 289 testimonials on NDE collected in 35 different countries. They are phenomena that occurred as a result of a heart attack, a traffic accident, a drowning or a war attack, for example. People who experienced them report extracorporeal sensations, hallucinations, accelerated thoughts, light flashes at the end of a tunnel, angelic songs and distortion of time.
According to the study, they affect almost 10% of people, a higher-than-expected percentage. Among them, a 37-year-old woman says that during childbirth she felt that she had just died and was going to heaven and another of 32, who was about to drown in the sea as a child. “I can still remember that incredible feeling of absolute peace,” he says. Cases like these have aroused the interest of philosophers, religious, psychologists, doctors and even esoteric.
Of the 289 testimonials, 106 reached the minimum threshold of 7 on the Greyson Scale of Near Death Experience, which asks about 16 symptoms. For 73% of all respondents, the experience was unpleasant. However, for 53% of those with a score of 7 or more on the Greyson scale (ECM confirmed), the experience was pleasant. Only 14% did not like it.
In a similar investigation of the Liège University Hospital in Belgium, 80% of the participants had perceived feelings of peace; 69% bright lights; 64% visions of spirits and people; and 35% had extracorporeal sensations. It was published in 2017 in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
In the study presented in Oslo, researchers found an association between NDEs and the intrusion of REM sleep in a nocturnal development: active brain, vivid dreams, visual and auditory hallucinations, and temporal paralysis. REM sleep intrusion was more common in people with scores of 7 or more on the Greyson scale than in the rest. Daniel Kondziella, a neurologist at the University of Copenhagen, believes that although such an association does not mean causation, the physiological mechanisms underlying REM sleep could help our understanding of near-death experiences.