Could physiological factors be responsible for near-death experiences? It could be that NDEs aren’t that close to death after all.
If you’ve ever experienced NDE, then you’ve felt a strange set of symptoms. Feelings of euphoria paired with the disconnection from your physical senses will leave you with an unforgettable experience. You will tell others about your experience, completely convinced that you’ve been near to death. But how true is this… really? Are your experiences just a set of physiological factors?
Near-death experiences (NDE), such as hovering over one’s body or meeting deceased relatives and friends, are mind games rather than insights into the afterlife, claim British scientists.
Has the mind simply lost touch with reality?
Psychologists at the University of Edinburgh and the Medical Research Council (MRC) in Britain concluded that those who “die” and come back to life describe experiences that are merely “dysfunctional manifestations of physiological brain functions“. Apparently, it’s all an illusion, and the miraculous things we see are confused perceptions of the mind.
“The brain is very good at deception“, said Dr. Carolyn Watt, a researcher at the School of Philosophy, Psychology & Language Sciences of the University and founder of the Koestler Parapsychology Unit.
The researchers believe that many phenomena associated with near-death experiences occur due to the effort of the brain to understand unusual sensations and perceptions that take place during a traumatic event. Under abnormal circumstances, the body can experience a variety of changing conditions, such as temperature, pressure, and other physiological factors.
Symptoms of near-death experiences and physiological causes behind them
“Some of the results of our study showed that many of those who “witnessed” their own death, had no real danger of dying, but most believed they were dying. The scientific evidence suggests that all aspects of near-death experiences have a biological basis “, said Dr. Watt.
The feeling of the impending death
The attempt of the mind to make sense of what a person may be experiencing during a traumatic event creates visions that can be explained by purely physiological processes. One of the most commonly reported characteristics of the near-death experience is the feeling of having died.
However, people with Cotard’s syndrome (Walking Corpses Syndrome) experience the same feeling, according to the journal Trends in Cognitive Science.
This syndrome is a rare neuropsychiatric disorder associated with the hallucinatory conviction of having died or having lost the blood or internal organs. In rare cases, it can include delusions of immortality. This syndrome has been observed after severe injuries or in patients with end-stage diseases such as typhoid fever and multiple sclerosis.
Many people who had NDEs reported out-of-body experiences, for example, the feeling of floating over your own body and being able to see it from above.
However, an experiment conducted by scientists at the Geneva University Hospital in Switzerland showed that these kinds of experiences can be artificially reproduced by the stimulation of the right angular gyrus in the parietal lobe of the brain. This area plays a significant role in perception and awareness.
Light at the end of the tunnel
The tunnel of light, often mentioned by people who believe they came close to death, also can be reproduced artificially. Pilots flying with acceleration sometimes suffer from hypertensive heart attacks.
This is a disorder that occurs due to the rapid increase in blood pressure, which, in turn, causes a partial loss of sight for up to 8 seconds. This literally makes a person see the light “at the end of the tunnel”. There is another assumption which explains this sensation as an optical illusion, an illusion strong enough to cause a reduction of blood and oxygen supply in the eyes.
Bliss and euphoria
These feelings can be even more easily reproduced artificially. In fact, exactly the same experiences are provoked by drugs like amphetamines and by noradrenaline, a hormone produced by the midbrain that leads to positive emotions and hallucinations that may be associated with near-death experiences.
“In combination, the scientific evidence suggests that all aspects of NDE have neurophysiological and psychological basis“, concluded the researchers.
The afterlife or physiological factors?
Do you feel as though something has been taken from you, namely the mystical qualities of near-death experiences? Scientists continue to study this phenomenon with the hope that they can conclusively prove what happens when our consciousness shifts. Do we leave our bodies? Are we just having a malfunction in the brain? There are still so many unanswered questions.
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