New Research Further Confirms That Near Death Experiences Have “Quite Probably” Been Explained

[Excerpts from my guest post at The Friendly Atheist.]

Heaven is Real 1 Heaven is Real 2Heaven Is Real 3

From the 2014 film Heaven is Real, based on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent about their 3-year-old son Colton’s NDE tale.

The University of Michigan made the stunning announcement this past week that the “near-death” experiences so many people have isn’t really Jesus calling us home. It’s our brain trying to kill us:

What happens in the moments just before death is widely believed to be a slowdown of the body’s systems as the heart stops beating and blood flow ends.

But a new laboratory study by the University of Michigan Medical School reveals a storm of brain activity that erupts as the heart deteriorates that may play a surprising destabilizing role in heart function…

Researchers with backgrounds in engineering, neuroscience, physiology, cardiology, chemistry, and pharmacology looked at the mechanism by which the heart of a healthy person ceases to function within just a few minutes without oxygen…

This new study provides a neurochemical foundation for the surge in brain activity and a brain-heart connectivity that may be targeted to lengthen detectable brain activity.

This near-death flood of neurochemicals found in the study included dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine, which researchers call the “happiness hormone,” contributes to the sensations of reward and motivation. Norepinephrine, in addition to increasing the heart rate, heightens attention and the fight-or-flight response. Put just these two together, and you get a highly alert, energetic, motivated, rewarded, and happy brain.

In other words, the basis of all those “heavenly tourism” books…

Study researcher and co-author Jimo Borjigin published related findings in 2013 titled “Electrical signatures of consciousness in the dying brain.” In that press release, the University of Michigan did focus on the NDE angle. It makes me wonder if they received a backlash from religious people that caused them to omit such references this time around:

The “near-death experience” reported by cardiac arrest survivors worldwide may be grounded in science, according to research at the University of Michigan Health System…

… a U-M study shows shortly after clinical death, in which the heart stops beating and blood stops flowing to the brain, rats display brain activity patterns characteristic of conscious perception

Approximately 20 percent of cardiac arrest survivors report having had a near-death experience. These visions and perceptions have been called “realer than real,” according to previous research, but it remains unclear whether the brain is capable of such activity after cardiac arrest.

In an ironic twist, not only does the study undermine NDEs as evidence of the divine, it found that a near-death signaling surge actually harms patients in cardiac arrest…

So if doctors can learn how to stop Jesus from visiting us while we’re dying, they may be able to save a lot of lives.

[Read my full post New Research Further Confirms That Near Death Experiences Have “Quite Probably” Been Explained at The Friendly Atheist].


One thought on “New Research Further Confirms That Near Death Experiences Have “Quite Probably” Been Explained

  1. How would this surge in brain activity have evolved and survived? Since this appears to be detrimental to survival, perhaps it is a side-effect of a physiological process that does provide an advantage?


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