If the mind is just a function of the brain, it stands to reason that the worse the brain is injured, the worse the mind would function. While this is what much of current brain research is finding, a body of evidence exists suggesting otherwise: under extreme circumstances, such as close to death, the mind may function well—or even better than usual—when the brain is impaired.
This suggests the mind may function independently of the brain.
One of the researchers who has been studying such cases is Dr. Alexander Batthyany, a professor of theoretical psychology and the philosophy of psychology in Liechtenstein and at the cognitive science department at the University of Vienna.
In his most recent study, published this month in the Journal of Near-Death Studies, Batthyany and his colleagues reviewed thousands of accounts of near-death experiences (NDEs) to determine the quality of vision and cognition.
He reported: “The more severe the physiological crisis, the more likely NDEers are to report having experienced clear and complex cognitive and sensory functioning.”
Part of Batthyany’s goal was to replicate earlier studies, few as they are, that have looked at the quality of vision and cognition during NDEs.
In a 2007 study by researchers at the University of Virginia, titled “Unusual Experiences: Near Death and Related Phenomena,” 52.2 percent of NDEers reported clearer vision. Jeffrey Long, M.D., founder of the Near Death Experiences Research Foundation (NDERF), found in a survey of 1,122 NDEers, that about 74 percent reported “more consciousness and alertness.”
“I felt extremely aware, totally present, sharp, and focused. In hindsight, it’s like being half asleep when I was alive, and totally awake after I was pronounced dead,” said one experiencer, as noted in Batthyany’s study.
“My mind felt
cleared and my thoughts seemed quick and decisive. I felt a great sense of freedom and was quite content to be rid of my body. I felt a connection with everything around me in a way that I cannot describe. I felt as if I was thinking faster or that time had slowed down considerably,” said another.
While Batthyany’s study confirmed, to a certain extent, the results of the previous studies that had shown an increase in cognitive and sensory functioning during NDEs, his methodology had some limitations. He said these limitations may have led to lower estimates for the percentage of NDEers who have heightened cognition.
He compiled thousands of written accounts from online repositories of experiences, such as the NDERF website, and ran them through a computer program, which identified words related to vision or cognition (such as “saw” or “thought”).
He and his colleagues then rated the quality of vision or cognition described in this smaller sample on a scale from -2 to +2. They further narrowed their study to experiences that included detailed explanations of the medical conditions that accompanied the NDEs. Only patients with cardiac and/or respiratory arrest were included in this study.
Previous studies had asked NDEers directly about the quality of their vision and cognition. Batthyany’s study, however, could only analyze the information given in general NDE accounts. So, for example, when he decided that there was “no change” in cognition or vision in some accounts, it may have been that there was indeed a change but that the NDEer hadn’t described it specifically enough to be counted.
Of the NDEers who mentioned visual perception, about 47 percent said they had enhanced vision. And 41 percent had unchanged vision, “which in itself is quite remarkable, given that these patients were in a severe medical crisis, and often unconscious,” Batthyany said in an email to Epoch Times.
Of the NDEers who made explicit references to awareness and mentation, about 35 percent said they had increased awareness and mentation. And about 61 percent reported normal everyday awareness during cardiac and respiratory arrest.
Given the implications of his study, Batthyany was careful to note other shortcomings in his methodology, including the fact that online NDE descriptions may include some fraudulent reports. But, he also noted reasons that these methodological shortcomings do not likely impact his overall finding that NDEs, by and large, include improved vision and cognition.
For example, concerning the risk of including fraudulent accounts, he wrote: “On NDERF, the largest contributor of NDEs studied here, less than 1 percent of posted NDEs have been removed due to concerns about their validity. Additionally, given the sheer number of accounts, it is unlikely that fake reports have significantly biased our results in one or the other direction. One would expect fake accounts … to be prototypical of the popular NDE narrative.”
Patients who have been completely incoherent for many years seem to suddenly return to their senses shortly before death.
In addition to these NDE studies, studies on the phenomena of terminal lucidity and mindsight also support the conclusion that the mind may engage in complex conscious activity even as brain functioning severely deteriorates, Batthyany said.
He has studied terminal lucidity in Alzheimer’s patients. This is a phenomenon in which patients who have been completely incoherent for many years seem to suddenly return to their senses shortly before death.
When the brain is at the furthest stage of degeneration, the expectation would be that the ability to make coherent connections between memories and various thoughts and emotions would be so far gone that a “whole” person could no longer emerge. Yet at this time, the whole mind seems to flash through, with all its connections intact.
“Mindsight” refers to the phenomenon in which blind people report being able to see during NDEs. This has been studied, for example, by Kenneth Ring at the University of Connecticut. Ring found that 15 out of 21 blind participants reported some kind of sight during NDEs.
Batthyany noted that some scientists consider NDEs to be hallucinations produced by neurophysiological processes.
“The findings reported in this paper and cases of terminal lucidity and mindsight, however, appear to suggest otherwise in that they indicate the presence of complex and structured conscious experience during decline, breakdown, or absence of the neurobiological correlates commonly held to be causative factors of NDEs—and of conscious experience in general,” he said.
He concluded that consciousness—including a sense of selfhood, complex visual imagery, and mental clarity—can sometimes outlive altered brain functioning, including even a flatline of electrical activity in the brain.
Terminal lucidity and mindsight are very rare phenomena, but NDEs are more numerous and “our results suggest that the continuity of visual imagery, mentation, and sense of selfhood is the rule rather than the exception during NDEs.”
Batthyany wrote: “It remains for future researchers to confirm or disconfirm our informal observation through formal analysis.”
His study, “Complex Visual Imagery and Cognition During Near-Death Experiences,” can be found in Volume 34, No. 2, of the Journal of Near-Death Studies.
Follow @TaraMacIsaac on Twitter
Near-death experiences are extraordinary. The idea of leaving one’s body at the point of death, traveling to a heavenly realm and seeing beloved relatives who have passed is truly a hero’s journey.
I have written a dozen books on the subject, and I am constantly in contact with near-death experience researchers as well as those who have had the experience. Their stories may eventually answer mankind’s greatest question: What happens when we die?
Which brings us to Dr. Rajiv Parti, former chief of anesthesiology at Bakersfield Heart Hospital. His is most likely the best near-death experience I have ever heard, not just for the experience itself, but for the transformation it led to.
In 2008 Dr. Parti was Chief of Anesthesiology at Bakersfield Heart Hospital in California. He derived his identity and happiness from the incredible wealth and prestige his job gave him. He lived in a mansion, had several luxury cars and was able to purchase most any material goods he wanted.
For some reason this made him feel invincible.
In August of that year everything changed. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer. A routine surgery eradicated the cancer, but led to complications that left him incontinent and in excruciating pain. He was prescribed pain meds that he soon became addicted to, and within time he was diagnosed with depression, too.
On Dec. 14, 2010, he went to UCLA Medical Center for the surgical placement of an artificial urinary sphincter. In the days after this surgery he began running a fever of 104 to 105 degrees. Heavy antibiotics were prescribed, but he was not getting better.
On Christmas Eve 2010, Dr. Parti underwent emergency surgery to drain the pelvic region of infection and remove the artificial sphincter.
It was here, dying and heavily anesthetized, that he “woke up.”
Although deeply asleep from anesthesia, he was very aware that his consciousness had separated from his body. From a vantage point near the ceiling he said he could see the surgeon cut him, and then all of the operating room personnel react as the odor of the pus from his infected abdomen seeped throughout the room. He saw a nurse apply eucalyptus-scented water to everyone’s surgical masks. He even heard the anesthesiologist tell a joke so dirty that he blushed when he later told it to the anesthesiologist in the recovery room.
Dr. Parti then left the operating room and began to drift toward familiar voices in India, where he could hear his mother and sister talking about dinner preparations, deciding on rice, vegetables, yogurt and legumes. He could see they were bundled up to protect themselves from the foggy, frigid air that night. A small electric heater glowed, helping to take the chill out of the room.
Dr. Parti became euphoric. “People are never far away,” he thought. He said he had the sense of his presence spreading around the world, a feeling of oneness with the world and everyone in it.
Then fear overcame him when his awareness drifted to a place where a great, wild fire was raging. He could see lightning in dark clouds and smell the odor of burning meat. He said he realized that an unseen force was pulling him into Hell, leaving him “in the midst of souls who were screaming and suffering.”
“What is my Karma,” he wondered. “What did I do in my life or past life to deserve this punishment?”
In the middle of this horror, Dr. Parti began to have the strong awareness that the life he was living was very materialistic. His life was always about him. So much so, in fact, that when he met new people Dr. Parti asked himself: “What can I get from this person?”
The truth dawned on him there in Hell: the life he was living on earth was without love. He was not practicing compassion or forgiveness toward himself or others. He also had an unsavory tendency to be harsh toward people he perceived to be lower than him in status. He felt deeply sorry for his lack of kindness, wishing he could have done certain things in his life differently. As soon as he had that realization, Hell faded away.
Transcendence and transformation are what interest me most in near-death experiences. In my research, I rarely meet a person who hasn’t been transformed by their experience. These people become kinder, gentler versions of the person they were before. Sometimes this change is so complete that they are no longer recognizable. That was the case with Dr. Parti. His brush with death opened an entirely new world to him—an otherworld if you will—that replaced the materialistic world he had so carefully constructed.
Dr. Parti was literally transformed by the light.
Perry is the co-author Dying to Wake Up
Thanks to: http://nexusilluminati.blogspot.com