(Artist point of view on a near-death experience. It includes the image of the tunnel with a light at its end)
The first clinical study of near-death experiences among cardiac arrest patients was performed by Sam Parnia in February 2001, followed in December 2001 by that of Pim van Lommel, a Dutch cardiologist, and his team (The Lancet , 2001). In 344 patients who were successfully resuscitated after suffering cardiac arrest, 62 (18%) expressed a peroperative memory and among those, 41 (12%) experienced a “classic” NDE, which includes a output body experience. According to van Lommel, patients remember the details of their condition during their cardiac arrest despite being clinically dead with a flat activity of the cerebral cortex. Among the 62 patients who expressed a memory, 50% reported awareness of being dead, 31% remember to move forward in a tunnel, while 32% describe the encounter with dead people. Furthermore, if patients who have experienced a NDE often report a sense of peace and happiness, only 56% of study subjects associate the experience with such positive emotions. No patients reported distressing or frightening NDE. Similarly, people who did not experience NDE, after cardiac arrest are not interested in spirituality, and their fear of death also decreased. These two processes, like most psychological changes associated with approaching death, will take place over several years.
Van Lommel concluded that these findings support the theory that consciousness persists despite the absence of neural activity in the brain. Van Lommel conjecture that continuity of consciousness can be achieved if the brain acts as a receptor for the information generated by the memory and consciousness, which existed independently of the brain, same as as radio news, television and internet exist independently of the instruments that receive these broadcasts.
Pim van Lommel et al. argue that “with a purely physiological explanation such as cerebral anoxia for the near-death experience, most patients who have been clinically dead should report one.” According to the researcher Sam Parnia of the University of Southampton, “death begins when the heart stops beating, but we can intervene and bring people back to life, even after three to four hours when they are kept very cold. It may be that a much higher proportion of people have near-death experiences, but does not remember.”
Experiments of this type are very significant in general for subjects who experience them. The return to consciousness may be accompanied by some confusion between the NDE and reality and fear of being considered mentally ill victim.
The findings of the study of Pim van Lommel, in favor of the hypothesis of survival (that is to say that consciousness can function completely independently of the brain and, therefore, survive the death of the latter ), have been criticized by skeptics movements and by neuroscientists who believe they have a clear theory of the phenomenon.