First ever scan of dying human brain shows astounding results
Does the brain play "last recall" of important moments in life just before death? New research suggests it may be true.
Scientists for the first time recorded the brain activity of a dying person just 15 minutes before he died and it revealed astounding results.
The researchers found "rhythmic brain wave patterns" near the time of death with similarities during dreaming and meditation. The researchers recorded there was an increase in "gamma oscillations" which occurs during dreaming and memory retrieval.
“We measured 900 seconds of brain activity around the time of death and set a specific focus to investigate what happened in the 30 seconds before and after the heart stopped beating,” Dr Ajmal Zemmar, a neurosurgeon at the University of Louisville, US, who was behind the study said.
The research said brain oscillations are "patterns of rhythmic brain activity normally present in living human brains" with different types of oscillations gamma involved in high-cognitive functions.
“Just before and after the heart stopped working, we saw changes in a specific band of neural oscillations, so-called gamma oscillations, but also in others such as delta, theta, alpha and beta oscillations,” Dr Zemmer said.
The study published in "Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience" said the "brain may remain active and coordinated during and even after the transition to death and may even be programmed to orchestrate the whole ordeal."
The study was conducted as an 87-year-old patient developed epilepsy. The doctors were performing electroencephalography (EEG) to detect the seizures, however, the patient died due to a heart attack. It allowed scientists to record the activity of a dying human brain for the first time ever.
"Through generating oscillations involved in memory retrieval, the brain may be playing a last recall of important life events just before we die, similar to the ones reported in near-death experiences,” Zemma said.
The study said "similar changes in gamma oscillations have been previously observed in rats" in controlled environments. The study said pointed out that it is "possible that, during death, the brain organises and executes a biological response that could be conserved across species."
However, the study noted that data was collected from a single case and stem of the brain of a patient who had suffered seizures and swelling which complicates interpretation of data while pointing out that more cases will be investigated.
In a hopeful message, Zemmar said: "Something we may learn from this research is that although our loved ones have their eyes closed and are ready to leave us to rest, their brains may be replaying some of the nicest moments they experienced in their lives."