Scientists have found evidence that suggests the human brain still works for a short time after death – meaning people know when they’re dead.
Researchers made the discovery by looking at cardiac arrest cases in Europe and the US.
What they learned was people who had been resuscitated could describe what happened, including conversations between doctors and nurses, after their heart stopped beating.
Dr Sam Parnia, who led the research, explained:
They’ll describe watching doctors and nurses working, they’ll describe having awareness of full conversations, of visual things that were going on, that would otherwise not be known to them.
It [the time a patient is declared dead] is all based on the moment when the heart stops. Technically speaking, that’s how you get the time of death.
After the heart ceases beating, blood stops circulating to the brain and it begins to shut down.
But, this process can reportedly take hours to complete, leaving a window of time where a person is officially dead and still aware of what’s going on around them.
The team of researchers, from New York’s Stony Brook University of Medicine, hope their work will help improve treatment of cardiac arrests and prevent brain injuries during resuscitation.
Dr Parnia added:
At the same time, we also study the human mind and consciousness in the context of death, to understand whether consciousness becomes annihilated or whether it continues after you've died for some period of time — and how that relates to what's happening inside the brain in real time.
The question of what happens when we die is still one of life’s greatest mysteries but the research shows there is some kind of life after death.