One not too impressive study does not prove life after death

Once again, we see an exaggerated headline and all the eggs metaphorically in one basket.

No, this study is not evidence for life after death.

First hint of ‘life after death’ in biggest ever scientific study – Telegraph.

The largest ever medical study into near-death and out-of-body experiences has discovered that some awareness may continue even after the brain has shut down completely.

It is a controversial subject which has, until recently, been treated with widespread scepticism.

But scientists at the University of Southampton have spent four years examining more than 2,000 people who suffered cardiac arrests at 15 hospitals in the UK, US and Austria.

And they found that nearly 40 per cent of people who survived described some kind of ‘awareness’ during the time when they were clinically dead before their hearts were restarted.

One person experienced an out-of-body event. Widespread skepticism is WARRANTED, not a bad thing. And, I dare say that one study that has some problems is NOT going to end that skepticism.

Dr. Sam Parnia, who headed this study, is an expert in these brain behavior after death studies. He suggests that medical knowledge is mistaken in this area, that the brain may “live” on hours after “death”. (Doctor says your consciousness lives on for at least a while after “death”) Interesting stuff but NOT paranormal. At all.

The headline, once again, is totally misleading. The study does not say anything about “life after death” but notes brain activity that takes place after normal “death” as we have defined it. Perhaps this study redefines the threshold of “death”. But to say it is evidence for life after death is in error.

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Certain anti-skeptics online are being smug. (Way to misunderstand, Hancock…)

Some parapsychologists are not so impressed.

I contacted Dr. Caroline Watt,Senior Researcher at the Koestler Parapsychology Unit at the University of Edinburgh.

She told me that the objective verifiable test of awareness was hidden images on shelves. 140 cardiac arrest survivors were tested. Only one gave an account of awareness.

The one ‘verifiable period of conscious awareness’ that Parnia was able to report did not relate to this objective test. Rather, it was a patient giving a supposedly accurate report of events during his resuscitation.

He didn’t identify the pictures, he described the defibrillator machine noise. But that’s not very impressive since many people know what goes on in an emergency room setting from seeing recreations on television. Dr. Watt calls this a “non-convincing account from a single patient”.

Here is the paper . A more detailed review is here… Thanks to those who supplied the copy.

  30 comments for “One not too impressive study does not prove life after death

  1. Chris Howard
    October 7, 2014 at 5:57 PM

    I’m completely convinced that there will be life after my death, it just won’t be mine. 😉

  2. October 7, 2014 at 6:45 PM

    Expect Tsakaris to be crowing about this on Skeptiko. Meanwhile, sorry, but apparently CU doesn’t get this journal, at least not articles in press (same with Nature, but as soon as they’re in an issue number, we get them … PITA if you ask me).

  3. Bill T.
    October 7, 2014 at 6:48 PM

    Well, they got one thing right: “… until recently, been treated with widespread scepticism …”, oh, and continues to be. Best way to mislead, tell just enough of the truth and stop, giving the impression that the contrary is true.

  4. October 7, 2014 at 7:39 PM

    Thanks for trying Stu. I did manage to get it and will be writing it up for for tomorrow.

  5. RandyRandy
    October 7, 2014 at 11:03 PM

    “I’m not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

    “All I know is, if there is an afterlife, then I definitely overpaid for my carpeting.”

    – Woody Allen, Without Feathers

  6. Lukas
    October 8, 2014 at 1:13 AM

    Here is the thread on Skeptiko about it:

    According to some user name tim before editing his message because he posted there the whole study. He claimed that its the same patient from Sam Parnia’s book Erasing Dead(Mr. A patient) which where Parnia collected the information 1 year after the whole events.

    It seems that as always NDE studies which should prove a soul have failed once again like it was in the past done by others.

  7. October 8, 2014 at 8:17 AM

    All religions have two things in common, without which they would have no adherents. One is that the Human species is in some ways above or not part of the animal kingdom, and the other is ‘life after death’. Simple logic explains why both ideas are illusions that have evolved in the brain to help us cope with being alive. As it is more comfortable for most people to believe in these illusions, it is unlikely that the majority of us will ever accept reality.

  8. October 8, 2014 at 9:01 AM

    One of the key issues I have with studies like this is the fact that all NDE/LAD claims are highly subjective and testimonial based. We know from other studies that the perception of time is elastic during times of stress, as well as at other times (when dreaming, for example). There is no way to know if any of the ‘memories’ reported occurred after the time that the brain was supposed to be shutdown, or while the patient was unconscious but definitely alive. That is without adding in the fact that memory is malleable, and that we now have quite a cultural template for what an NDE should look like.

    A number of articles refer to patients recalling seeing things that they could only see if the were having out of body experiences (there is a two year old article of that has risen to the top of their list again that contains one such story), yet none of these seem to occur at places that have actually prepared hidden objects for just such occasions, and if they do, the person who ‘comes back’ never sees any of the prepared objects.

    Finally, dead, as far as we know it, is dead. People have come back from extended periods where all normal functions have ceased, but these periods are generally measured in minutes. No-one who has been declared dead by a competent, well equipped physician and has not been kept on life support, has come back after a day, or even an hour.

  9. October 8, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    Dead is dead. Anything short of it is, well, alive. I am a bit weary of all the pseudo-scientific claims being made by people that should know better. I read just yesterday about a dog that was put down by injection. The drug in the syringe was effective for killing dogs and cats and had been used many times by the veterinarian. Dog was injected, witnessed as dying and confirmed dead. Next morning, the dead dog was busy drinking water in the outside area of his enclosure when staff came to dispose of his corpse. No answer was proposed for the dogs “miraculous resurrection”; the dog has since been placed with a family.
    Perhaps dying is not always the correct response to lethality? The cynic in me says they missed the vein…lucky dog.

  10. Dave
    October 8, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    Here is a good article by Dr. Jason Braithwaite on NDEs.

  11. October 8, 2014 at 1:01 PM

    Parnia’s previous research in this area hasn’t fully panned out when retested or reviewed by others. Sharon’s too charitable to him otherwise. Per his page on Wiki, he’s an outright ontological dualist:

  12. October 8, 2014 at 1:49 PM

    Yeah, I suspected as much. But I tried to focus on the issue of the media going overboard.

  13. Dave
    October 8, 2014 at 1:56 PM

    As I am interested in all sides of the NDE debate, can you please provide references for those ‘other’s who have retested and/or reviewed his research? Obviously this study was peer reviewed in the journal it was published in.

    What are you thoughts on the work done by Greyson, Stevenson, vanLommel, Pasricha, Cook, Oasis, Kelly, Ring, Nahm and others?

  14. Dave
    October 8, 2014 at 2:02 PM

    I liked your review on Very nice. I also paid for and read the article. I think the media tried to make way more out of this than even Dr. Parnia et al tried to do in the published paper. But ’tis the spooky season…So a good media story to play up life after death is not unexpected. 🙂

  15. Lukas
    October 8, 2014 at 2:10 PM
  16. October 9, 2014 at 7:30 PM

    Erm, David, from that Wikipedia link, there’s this:

    In 2001, Parnia and colleagues investigated out of body claims by placing figures on suspended boards facing the ceiling, not visible from the floor. Parnia wrote “anybody who claimed to have left their body and be near the ceiling during resuscitation attempts would be expected to identify those targets. If, however, such perceptions are psychological, then one would obviously not expect the targets to be identified.”[8] The philosopher Keith Augustine, who examined Parnia’s study, has written that all target identification experiments have produced negative results.[9] Psychologist Chris French wrote regarding the study “unfortunately, and somewhat atypically, none of the survivors in this sample experienced an OBE.”[10]

    And, then there’s this:

    As part of the AWARE study Parnia and colleagues have investigated out of body claims by using hidden targets placed on shelves that could only be seen from above.[13] Parnia has written “if no one sees the pictures, it shows these experiences are illusions or false memories”.[13] Parnia issued a statement indicating that the first phase of the project has been completed and the results are undergoing peer review for publication in a medical journal.[14] No subjects saw the images mounted out of sight according to Parnia’s early report of the results of the study at an American Heart Association meeting in November 2013. Οnly two out of the 152 patients reported any visual experiences, and one of them described events that could be verified.[15]

    Pretty straightforward.

  17. Dave
    October 10, 2014 at 9:46 AM

    Thanks. I have seen most of those. Parnia of course is not the only research game in town. Here are a few more NDE articles for you 🙂 Lots of work has been done and continues to be done.


    STE12. Near-Death Experiences: Relevance to the Question of Survival after Death by Dr. Ian Stevenson and Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Journal of the American Medical Association. 242:265-267, 1979). A brief review of some published studies of near-death experiences and a discussion of the importance of studying such cases. (pdf)

    NDE2. The Investigation of Near-Death Experiences by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Journal of Indian Psychology. 2: 7-11, 1979). A description of a program to seek evidence of survival after death by studying near-death experiences.

    STE13. The Phenomenology of Near-Death Experiences by Dr. Bruce Greyson and Dr. Ian Stevenson. (American Journal of Psychiatry 137:1193-1196, 1980). Presentation of some data pertaining to 78 reports of near-death experiences studied by the authors. (pdf)

    NDE4. Near-Death Experiences and Attempted Suicide by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Suicide Life-Threat. Behav. 11:10-16, 1981). A discussion of the reasons near-death experiences may reduce the risk of suicide attempts. (pdf)

    NDE5. Toward a Psychological Explanation of Near-Death Experiences by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Anabiosis 1:88-103, 1981). A discussion of psychological hypotheses proposed to explain near-death experiences. (pdf)

    NDE6. Near-Death Studies, 1981-1982: A Review by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Anabiosis 2:150-158, 1982). A review of 43 articles on near-death experiences published in scientific journals during 1981-82. (pdf)

    NDE7. Near-Death Experiences and Personal Values by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (American Journal of Psychiatry 140:618-620, 1983). A study of changes in personal values among 89 survivors of near-death experiences. (pdf)

    NDE8. The Near-Death Experiences Scale: Construction, Reliability, and Validity by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 171:369-375, 1983). A description of the development and validation of a standardized scale for measuring near-death experiences. (pdf)

    NDE9. The Psychodynamics of Near-Death Experiences by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 171:376-381, 1983). A discussion of psychological mechanisms proposed to play a role in near-death experiences, and objections to and clinical usefulness of a psychological interpretation of near-death experiences. (pdf)

    NDE10. Increase in Psychic Phenomena Following Near-Death Experiences by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Theta 11:26-29, 1983). A study of reported psychic phenomena before and after near-death experiences among 69 experiencers. (pdf)

    NDE11. A Typology of Near-Death Experiences by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (American Journal of Psychiatry 142:967-969, 1985). A classification of near-death experiences into 3 different types based on a statistical analysis of 89 experiences. (pdf)

    STE22. Near-Death Experiences in India: A Preliminary Report by Dr. Ian Stevenson and Dr. Satwant Pasricha. (Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 174:165-170, 1986). A study of 16 cases of persons in India who recovered from near death. The experiences among Indians differ significantly from those among Westerners. (pdf)

    NDE13. Incidence of Near-Death Experiences Following Attempted Suicide by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. 16:40-45, 1986). A study of near-death experiences among 61 survivors of attempted suicide. (pdf)

    NDE14. Clinical Approaches to the Near-Death Experience by Dr. Bruce Greyson and B. Harris). (Journal of Near-Death Stud. 6:41-52, 1987). Guidelines for clinical interventions with near-death experiencers, based on an interdisciplinary conference of clinicians and experiencers. (pdf)

    NDE15. Can Science Explain the Near-Death Experience? by Dr. Bruce Greyson (Journal of Near-Death Studies. 8:77-92, 1989). A discussion of the types of questions about near-death experiences that scientific studies can and cannot answer. (pdf)

    STE30. Are Persons Reporting “Near-Death Experiences” Really Near Death? A Study of Medical Records by Dr. Ian Stevenson, Dr. Emily Williams Cook, and Dr. Nicholas McClean-Rice. (Omega 20:45-54, 1989-1990). Report of an analysis of medical records pertaining to 40 persons reporting near-death experiences, showing that over half of the subjects had not been near death at the time of their NDE. (pdf)

    NDE17. Near-Death Encounters With and Without Near-Death Experiences by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Journal of Near-Death Studies. 8:151-161, 1990). A study comparing 183 persons who had near-death experiences with 63 persons who came close to death but did not have near-death experiences, using the NDE Scale described in Article #8 above. (pdf)

    STE36. Features of “Near-Death Experience” in Relation to Whether or Not Patients Were Near Death by Dr. Ian Stevenson, Dr. Justine E. Owens, and Dr. Emily Williams Cook. (The Lancet 336:1175-1177, 1990). The authors compare the features of the experiences of 28 patients who came close to death with 30 patients who were not close to death but had similar experiences. (pdf)

    NDE19. Near-Death Experiences Precipitated by Suicide Attempt: Lack of Influence of Psychopathology, Religion, and Expectations by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Journal of Near-Death Studies 9:183-188, 1991). A study examining the association between near-death experiences and psychopathology, religious background, and expectations of death and dying among 61 survivors of attempted suicide. (pdf)

    NDE20. Near-Death Experiences and Systems Theories: A Biosociological Approach to Mystical States by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Journal of Mind and Behavior. 12:487-500, 1991). A discussion of a biosociological model that seeks to explain near-death experiences in terms of information theories and systems theories. (pdf)

    NDE21. Distressing Near-Death Experiences by Dr. Bruce Greyson and N. E. Bush. (Psychiatry 55:95-110, 1992). A discussion of the different types of unpleasant or frightening near-death experiences. (pdf)

    NDE22. Reduced Death Threat in Near-Death Experiencers by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Death Studies. 16:523-536, 1992). A study of how threatening death appears to be, comparing 135 near-death experiencers with 43 persons who have come close to death but not had near-death experiences and 112 persons who have not come close to death. (pdf)

    NDE23. Near-Death Experiences and Anti-Suicidal Attitudes by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Omega 26:81-89, 1992-93). A study of anti-suicidal attitudes among 150 near-death experiencers and 43 persons who have come close to death but not had near-death experiences. (pdf)

    NDE24. Near-Death Experiences and the Physio-Kundalini Syndrome by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Journal of Religion and Health 32:277-290, 1993). A study of physiological symptoms of kundalini awakening among 153 near-death experiencers, 55 persons who have come close to death but not had near-death experiences, and 113 persons who have not come close to death. (pdf)

    NDE25. Varieties of Near-Death Experience by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Psychiatry 56:390-399, 1993). A discussion of the different types of near-death experience, and a study of the association of these types with demographic and situational factors among 246 persons who have come close to death. (pdf)

    NDE26. Experiencias Cercanas a la Muerte y Suicido by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Mas Alla de la Ciencias Monogr. #6, pp. 49-53, 1993). (In Spanish.) A discussion of near-death experiences following attempted suicide and the effect of the experience on further suicidal thinking.

    STE41. The Absence of Tunnel Sensations in Near-Death Experiences from India by Dr. Ian Stevenson, Dr. Allen Kellehear, Dr. Satwant Pasricha, and Dr. Emily Williams Cook. (Journal of Near-Death Studies. 13(2):109-113, 1994). This paper presents data contradicting the assumption that near-death experiences are similar all over the world. In fact, they show strong influences from different cultures. Tunnels, which are frequently reported for Western cases, do not occur in Indian ones. (pdf)

    NDE28. Near-Death Experiences and Satisfaction With Life by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Journal of Near-Death Studies. 13:103-108, 1994). A study of satisfaction with life among 126 near-death experiencers, 40 persons who have come close to death but not had a near-death experience, and 109 persons who have not come close to death. (pdf)

    STE42. Involuntary Memories During Severe Physical Illness or Injury by Dr. Ian Stevenson and Dr. Emily Williams Cook. (Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 183:452-458, 1995). A review of 117 cases of persons who, when near death or when they thought they were about to die, had the experience of seeing earlier events of their life suddenly coming into consciousness. (pdf)

    NDE30. The Near-Death Experience as a Focus of Clinical Attention by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 185:327-334, 1997). A discussion of differential diagnosis and treatment strategies for mental and emotional problems that are related to near-death experiences. (pdf)

    STE46. Do Any Near-Death Experiences Provide Evidence for the Survival of Human Personality After Death? Relevant Features and Illustrative Case Reports by Dr. Emily Williams Cook, Dr. Bruce Greyson, and Dr. Ian Stevenson. ( Journal of Scientific Exploration 12:377-406, 1998). Three features of NDEs that may support the survival hypothesis are discussed, followed by a presentation of 14 cases with some or all of these features. (pdf)

    NDE32. Biological Aspects of Near-Death Experiences by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Perspectives in Biology and Medicine. 42:14-32, 1998). A review of biological aspects of near-death experiences, including predisposing factors, phenomenology, and aftereffects; and a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of psychological and physiological hypotheses that have been proposed as explanations of NDEs.(pdf)

    NDE33. The Incidence of Near-Death Experiences by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Medical Psychiatry 1:92-99, 1998). A critical review of all the published estimates of the frequency of near-death experiences, summarizing the methodological problems and other reasons for discrepancies. (pdf)

    NDE34. Defining Near-Death Experiences by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Mortality 4:7-19, 1999). A critical review of attempts to define near-death experiences. (pdf)

    NDE35. Dissociation in People Who Have Had Near-Death Experiences: Out of Their Bodies or Out of Their Minds? by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (The Lancet 355:460-63, 2000). This study finds that near-death experiencers report more dissociation than do people who come close to death without NDEs, but this does not reflect a clinical dissociative disorder. (pdf)

    STE50. Can Experiences Near Death Furnish Evidence of Life after Death? by Dr. Emily Williams Kelly, Dr. Bruce Greyson, and Dr. Ian Stevenson. (Omega 40:513-519, 1999-2000). Single features of an experience near death do not suggest survival after death; they may have other explanations. The authors suggest, however, that when three features occur together, the experience does suggest survival. The features are: enhanced mental processes, seeing the physical body from another position in space, and paranormal perceptions. (pdf)

    KEL13. Near-Death Experiences with Reports of Meeting Deceased People by Dr. Emily Williams Kelly. (Death Studies 25:229-249, 2001). This article compares the hypothesis that near-death experiences are evidence of survival after death with some nonsurvival interpretations of NDEs by examining reports of having seen deceased persons during an NDE. (pdf)

    NDE37. Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms Following Near-Death Experiences by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 71:368-373, 2001). This study finds that near-death experiencers report more intrusive memories of their close brush with death than do people who come close to death without NDEs, but that this does not reflect a clinical posttraumatic stress disorder.(pdf)

    NDE38. Incidence and Correlates of Near-Death Experiences in a Cardiac Care Unit by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (General Hospital Psychiatry 25:269-276, 2003.) This article describes a 3-year study of 1,595 patients hospitalized in a cardiac care unit, in which 10% of patients with cardiac arrest and 1% of patients with other heart problems had NDEs. (pdf)

    NDE39. Near-Death Experiences in a Psychiatric Outpatient Clinic Population by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Psychiatric Services, 54:1649-1651, 2003). This article describes a survey of NDEs among psychiatric outpatients. The incidence of NDEs in this sample was comparable to that in the general population, and patients with NDEs reported less psychological distress than did patients who had come close to death without having NDEs. (pdf)

    NDE40. Auditory Hallucinations Following Near-Death Experiences by Dr. Bruce Greyson and Dr. Mitchell Liester. (Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 44:320-336, 2004). This article describes a survey on inner voices heard by NDErs following their experiences. Experiencers’ attitudes toward these voices were overwhelmingly positive, unlike the overwhelmingly negative attitudes of psychiatric patients toward their hallucinations. Inner voices are common following NDEs, and are highly valued by those who hear them. (pdf)

    NDE41.The Life Changes Inventory- Revised by Dr. Bruce Greyson and Dr. Kenneth Ring. ( Journal of Near-Death Studies , 23 (1), Fall 2004). This article describes the historical development of Dr. Ring’s Life Changes Inventory, a self-rating instrument to measure value changes following an NDE, and presents an updated and revised version of the scale. (pdf)

    NDE42. A Rasch Scaling Validation of a ‘Core’ Near-Death Experience by Dr. R. Lange , Dr. Bruce Greyson, and Dr. J. Houran. ( British Journal of Psychology, 95, 161-177, 2004). This article validates Dr. Greyson’s NDE Scale using the Rasch statistical model, and demonstrates that the scale yields a unidimensional measure with interval-scaling properties. With this scale, NDEs show a consistent pattern, unaffected by external variables or by intensity of the experience. (pdf)

    NDE43. “False Positive” Claims of Near-Death Experiences and “False Negative” Denials of Near-Death Experiences by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Death Studies, 29, 145-155, 2005). This article evaluates “false positive” claims of people who say they have had NDEs even though their experiences do not meet research criteria for NDEs, and “false negative” denials of people who deny having had NDEs even though their experiences do meet research criteria for NDEs. The experiences of “false positive” claimants and of “false negative” deniers differ from the experiences of “true positive” claimants who did have NDEs and of “true negative” deniers who did not have NDEs. The frequencies of “false positive” claims and of “false negative” denials are influenced by prior knowledge of NDEs and other psychological factors. (pdf)

    NDE44. Postcesarean Pulmonary Embolism, Sustained Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, Embolectomy, and Near-Death Experience by Dr. Alan Marty, Dr. Frank Hilton, Dr. Robert Spear, and Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Obstetrics & Gynecology, 106, 1153-1155, 2005). This article describes the resuscitation of a woman whose heart stopped due to massive blood clots in her lungs after giving birth by cesarean section, and who later reported a profound NDE while her heart was stopped. (pdf)

    NDE45. Do Prevailing Societal Models Influence Reports of Near-Death Experiences? A Comparison of Accounts Reported Before and After 1975 by Dr. Geena Athappilly, Dr. Bruce Greyson, & Dr. Ian Stevenson. (Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease, 194, 218-222, 2006). This article compares the phenomenology of 24 NDEs that were reported prior to Dr. Raymond Moody’s introduction of the term “NDE” in 1975 with 24 recently reported NDEs, matched on relevant demographic and situational variables. Tunnel phenomena were reported more frequently in the recent NDEs, but 14 other features described by Moody were reported as frequently in the pre-1975 NDEs as they were in the recent cases. This consistency in NDEs reported before and after Moody described the “typical” NDE suggests that NDEs reports have not been substantially influenced by prevailing cultural models. (pdf)

    NDE46. Near-Death Experiences and Spirituality by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science, 41, 393-414, 2006). This article reviews the similarities between NDEs and mystical experiences, the evidence for the lack of influence of prior religiosity or spirituality on NDEs, the evidence for the influence of NDEs on subsequent religiosity and spirituality, and the religious and spiritual implications of NDEs for humankind. (pdf)

    NDE47. Failure to Elicit Near-Death Experiences in Induced Cardiac Arrest, by Dr. Bruce Greyson, Dr. Janice Holden, and Dr. Paul Mounsey. (Journal of Near-Death Studies, 25, 85-98, 2006). This article describes a study attempting to test the accuracy of out-of-body perceptions during cardiac arrest induced during surgical implantation of automatic implantable cardioverters/defibrillators (ICDs), electrical devices that automatically detect cardiac arrest and administer an electrical shock to return the heart to normal rhythm. In a series of 52 induced cardiac arrests, no patient reported having had a near-death or out-of-body experience. The article discusses possible reasons that no NDEs occurred in these induced cardiac arrests. (pdf)

    NDE47A. Dissociative and psychotic experiences in Brazilian Spiritist mediums [Letter], by A. Moreira-Almeida, F. L Neto, and Dr. Bruce Greyson, (Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 76, 57-58, 2006). This letter to the editor describes a study of dissociative and hallucinatory experiences reported by 115 Brazilian spiritist mediums. These experiences, which include apparent communications with deceased entities, should not be considered pathological because they occur in the cultural context of a religious ritual and are associated with good social adjustment and mental health. (pdf)

    NDE47B. Does the arousal system contribute to near-death experience?[Letter], by Dr. Bruce Greyson and J.P. Long (Neurology, 67, 2265, 2006). The letter to the editor critiques the research by Kevin Nelson and colleagues purporting to show a link between “REM intrusion” and NDEs. The Nelson study used an atypical sample of NDErs, an inappropriate comparison group, and different procedures for eliciting “REM intrusion” symptoms from the two groups that likely biased the results; and the authors drew conclusions not supported by their data and ignored data contradicting their conclusions. (pdf)

    NDE48. Consistency of Near-Death Experience Accounts Over Two Decades: Are Reports Embellished Over Time? by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Resuscitation, 73, 407-411, 2007). This article examines whether experiencers’ reports of their NDEs were embellished over a 20-year period, as measured by their scores on the standardized NDE Scale when they first reported their experiences and again two decades later. NDE reports did not change over this time period, and the differences in NDE Scale scores between the first and second administration was not related to the length of the intervening time interval. These data suggest that memories of NDEs are more stable than memories of other events, and that studying NDE that occurred years ago can yield valid information. (pdf)

    NDE49. Near-death experiences: Clinical implications, by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Revista de Psiquiatria Clínica, 34, suppl 1, 49-57, 2007). (available in English and in Portuguese). This literature review examines the evidence for and against proposed medical explanation for NDEs and their similarities to and differences from mental disorders; and data regarding changes in attitudes, beliefs, and values following NDEs, including problematic changes and recommended therapeutic interventions.(pdf)

    NDE50. Comments on “Does paranormal perception occur in near-death experiences?” by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Journal of Near-Death Studies, 25, 237-244, 2007). This article responds to Keith Augustine’s critique of studies of veridical perception in NDEs, acknowledging problems in NDE research methodology but offering data to rebut the mistaken assumptions and misinterpretations on which much of the criticism is based. (pdf)

    NDE51. The Mystical Impact of Near-Death Experiences, by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Shift, 17, 8-13, 2007). The article reviews the spiritual transformative effects of NDEs, and studies of spirituality before and after NDEs. (pdf)

    NDE52. Commentary on “Cultural and physiological correlates undermining a survivalist interpretation of near-death experiences.” by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Journal of Near-Death Studies, 26, 127-145, 2007). This article responds to Keith Augustine’s critique of a transcendental interpretation of NDEs, acknowledging problems in NDE research methodology but offering data to rebut the mistaken assumptions and misinterpretations on which much of the criticism is based. (pdf)

    NDE53. Articles of interest, by Dr. Bruce Greyson. [Review of “Stimulating illusory own-body perceptions,” by Blanke, O., Ortigue, S., Landis, T., and Seeck, M., and of “Does the arousal system contribute to near death experience?” by Nelson, K. R., Mattingly, M., Lee, S. A., and Schmitt, F. A.]. (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 21, 213-215, 2007). This review critiques the study by Olaf Blanke and colleagues that confused illusions of feeling out of the body induced by electrical brain stimulation with spontaneous out-of-body experiences, which share few similarities with the induced illusions and differ from them in important ways. It also critiques the research by Kevin Nelson and colleagues purporting to show a link between “REM intrusion” and NDEs, detailing problems in the methodology and interpretation of that study. (pdf)

    NDE54. The NDE Scale [Letter], by Bruce Greyson (Skeptical Inquirer, 31(5), 67, 2007). (pdf)

    NDE55. Ian Stevenson [Letter], by Dr. Bruce Greyson, (Skeptical Inquirer, 31(5), 67, 2007). (pdf)

    NDE56. Response to Augustine’s “Does paranormal perception occur in near-death experiences?” [Letter], by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Journal of Near-Death Studies, 26, 67-70, 2007). This article responds to Keith Augustine’s critique of accurate out-of-body perception during NDEs, which largely ignored the published literature supporting the reality of OBE perception. ( pdf)

    NDE57. Ian Stevenson’s contributions to near-death studies, by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 22, 54-63, 2008). This article reviews Ian Stevenson’s contributions to near-death studies, including his work on the phenomenology of NDE, their implications for the survival question, and research methodology. (pdf)

    NDE58. Visualizing out-of-body experience in the brain [Letter], by Drs. Bruce Greyson, Sam Parnia, and P. Fenwick, (New England Journal of Medicine, 358, 855-856, 2008). This letter to the editor critiques a report by Dirk De Ridder and colleagues describing a sense of disembodiment induced by electrical brain stimulation, which was quite different phenomenologically from spontaneous out-of-body experiences. (pdf)

    NDE59. The near-death experience [Letter], by Dr. Bruce Greyson, (Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 14(3), 14, 2008). This letter to the editor critiques an article by Süster Strubelt and Uwe Maas comparing NDEs with ritual trances induced by Iboga in Gabonese healing rituals. Strubelt and Maas proposed a hypothetical neurobiological mechanism to explain Iboga intoxication that has little if any relevance to NDEs. (pdf)

    NDE60. Articles of interest, by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (2008). [Review of “The Near-Death Experience: A Cerebellar Method to Protect Body and Soul – Lessons from the Iboga Healing Ceremony in Gabon” by Strubelt, S., and Maas, U.]. (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 22, 447-448, 2008). This letter to the editor critiques an article by Süster Strubelt and Uwe Maas comparing NDEs with ritual trances induced by Iboga in Gabonese healing rituals. Strubelt and Maas proposed a hypothetical neurobiological mechanism to explain Iboga intoxication that has little if any relevance to NDEs. (pdf)

    NDE61. Terminal lucidity in patients with chronic schizophrenia and dementia: A survey of the literature, by Michael Nahm and Dr. Bruce Greyson (Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 197, 942-944, 2009). This article summarizes 81 published case reports of the unexpected and unexplained return of mental clarity and memory shortly before death, in patients who had lost their mental faculties for many years as a result of chronic schizophrenia or dementia. (pdf)

    NDE62. Implications of near-death experiences for a postmaterialist psychology, by Dr. Bruce Greyson (Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 2, 37-45, 2010). This article describes NDE features that challenge materialist reductionism and support a new model of consciousness that is more compatible with contemporary physics. (pdf)

    NDE63. Equivalência semântica da versão em português da Escala de Experiência de Quase-Morte [Semantic equivalence of the Portuguese version of the Near-Death Experience Scale] by Serralta, F. B., Cony, F., Cembranel, Z., Greyson, B., and Szobot, C. M. (Psico-USF: Revista Semestral da Area da Psicologia da Universidade São Francisco, 15, 35-46, 2010). (pdf)

    OTH23. Seeing deceased persons not known to have died: “Peak in Darien”experiences, by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Anthropology and Humanism 35: 159-171, 2010). (pdf)

    NDE64. [Letter] Hypercapnia and hypokalemia in near-death experiences, by Dr. Bruce Greyson(Critical Care, 14:420, 2010). (pdf)

    NDE65. Cosmological implications of near-death experiences, by Dr. Bruce Greyson (Journal of Cosmology, 14, 4684-4696, 2011). (pdf)

    NDE66. Meaningful coincidences and near-death experiences, by Dr. Bruce Greyson (Psychiatric Annals 41:12, e1-e5, December, 19, 2011). (pdf)

    NDE67. [Letter] Response to “Some Basic Problems with the Term ‘Near-Death Experience'”, by Dr. Bruce Greyson (Journal of Near-Death Studies, 29(4), 467-470, Summer 2011). (pdf)

    NDE68. ‘There is nothing paranormal about near-death experiences’ revisited: Comment on Mobbs and Watt, by Dr. Bruce Greyson, J.M. Holden, and Dr. Pimm Van Lommel, (Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 16, 445, 2012). (pdf)

    NDE69. Near-death experiences and spiritual well-being, by Surbhi Khanna and Dr. Bruce Greyson, 11 pages. (Journal of Religion and Health, published on-line, April 30th, 2013). (pdf)

    NDE70. An overview of near-death experiences, by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (Missouri Medicine, 110: 471-477, 2013). (pdf)

    NDE71. Surge of neurophysiological activity in the dying brain, by Drs. Bruce Greyson, Edward Kelly, and Ross Dunseath. (Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences, 110:E4405, 2013). (pdf)

    NDE72. Spiritual transformation following near-death experiences, by Drs. Bruce Greyson and Surbhi Khanna. (Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 1:43-55, 2014). (pdf)

    NDE73. Congruence Between Near-Death and Mystical Experience, by Dr. Bruce Greyson. (The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 24:298–310, 2014). (pdf)

    NDE74. AWARE—AWAreness during REsuscitation—A prospective study, in press by S. Parnia, B. Greyson, et al. (Journal of Resuscitation, Fall, 2014) (pdf)

  18. Tommy Decentralized
    October 11, 2014 at 3:58 AM

    Thank you. The headlines are pure clickbait.
    ps. I wish you were on facebook.

  19. October 11, 2014 at 4:55 PM

    What do you mean? We ARE on Facebook! Feel free to “Like” us!

  20. Focault
    October 13, 2014 at 5:02 PM

    Please, do not forget that NDEs may also be experienced under the effect of drugs. Thus, it seems that NDEs are not linked exclusively with real near-death episodes.

    Nevertheless, Michael Raduga trained four groups of 10 to 20 volunteers to perform a series of mental steps upon awakening during the night that might lead them to have out-of-body experiences in order to demonstrate that NDEs may be lucid dreams:

    Finally, I’m a natural lucid dreamer and, so far I’ve had many lucid dreams and a couple of OBEs. What I can say is that, to me OBEs are just hallucinations. Moreover, I know several lucid dreamers who experienced the famous “card test”, but, during their OBEs, the outcomes never matched with reality.

    Thus, what should we think? May be God is cheating us because NDEs may be either real or illusions, depending on the situation.

    A “not even wrong logic”, I guess.

  21. Tommy Decentralized
    October 14, 2014 at 6:21 AM

    Dead link. but I found it anyway. thanks.

  22. Dave
    October 14, 2014 at 1:56 PM

    This is a decent article that looks at both sides of the issue.
    Agrillo (2011). Near-Death Experience: Out-of-Body and Out-of-Brain? Review of General Psychology. 15(1), 1-10.

  23. John
    October 14, 2014 at 7:50 PM

    Another reason why one should never get their primary scientific information popular news sources. I almost always only obtain and read the scientific research article/technical paper itself. And I have the entire study by Parnia et al. front to back. I would just like to address some facts, as this present web article (i.e., the one on this vey page; this time from a self proclaimed skeptic) says some misleading things. As Freud said, If you consider yourself a skeptic, it’s good to have occasional doubts about even your own skepticism. What I am doing in this post is emphatically NOT advocating any point of view – rather I am doubting some of what the doubters have to say (that which is factually inaccurate), and am doing so on the basis of the actual evidence taken from the scientific research itself.

    Firstly, Caroline Watt might indeed be a parapsychologist, but out of all the researching parapsychologists (most of whom are proponents) – Watt however, is an avowed skeptic, not just of psi phenomena but especially of the NDE (she authored a “debunking” paper of the NDE some years ago).

    About the study itself: it is simply false that “only one person had awareness”. In this prospective study by Parnia et al., it was reported that 9% of cardiac arrest survivors experienced a typical, full-blown NDE phenomenology . This percentage corroborates incidence rates of NDEs during cardiac arrest patients in previous prospective studies over the last decade or so (e.g., Parnia and Fenwick; Sartori; Greyson, van Lommel; Schwaninger; Sabom; etc)

    OBEs and NDEs are related, but distinct. Of the 9% of patients who had NDEs, 2% had OBEs as part of their NDE experience. That corresponds to 2 patients, not 1, who had veridical OBEs. Thus, a greater percentage of patients (that’s the 9%) had explicit awareness and experiences that were of the NDE phenomena.

    Of the two patients who had both OBEs and NDEs, Parnia et al report this:
    “[Both] experienced specific auditory and visual awareness (category 5). Both patients had suffered ventricular fibrillation (VF) in non-acute areas where shelves had not been placed. Their descriptions are summarized in Table 2. Both were contacted for further in-depth interviews to verify their experiences against documented CA events.”
    Hence, the information provided by these OBE/NDE expedients was not merely auditory information, but also visual information. As the authors say, this (visual) information was highly detailed and accurate.
    Importantly, these are not the first people to ever report veridical info during a cardiac arrest related NDE. In some of the prospective studies mentioned above, there have been several independently confirmed, detailed (visual/audio) OBE/NDEs reported.

    Regarding the targets, the authors state: “only 22% of CA [cardiac arrests, in general] events actually took place in the critical and acute medical wards where the shelves had been installed and consequently over 78% of CA events took place in rooms without a shelf.” Furthermore, as it was already mentioned, only 2 of all those patients attested to even having an OBE that could be put to the test and matched against events of their CA – and they were NOT in areas where the targets were placed. It’s no surprise the target results weren’t interesting – the sample size of survivors who a) were in a room where targets were located , and b) even had an OBE, is quite small.

    Lastly, Parnia’s own stance is inaccurately represented by the author of this news blog page. The authors of the study state in conclusion (with specific reference to one of patients who had an OBE/NDE):

    “In contrast to anesthesia typically there is no measurable brain function within seconds after cardiac standstill.17–21 This ‘flatlined’ isoelectric brain state which occurs with CA onset usually continues throughout CPR since insufficient cerebral blood flow (CBF) is achieved22 to meet cerebral metabolic requirements during conventional CPR.23–25 However it was estimated our patient maintained awareness for a number of minutes into CA. While certain deep coma states may lead to a selective absence of cortical electrical activity in the presence of deeper brain activity,26 this seems unlikely during CA as this condition is associated with global rather than selective cortical hypoperfusion as evidenced by the loss of brain stem function. Thus, within a model that assumes a causative relationship between cortical activity and consciousness the occurrence of mental processes and the ability to accurately describe events during CA as occurred in our verified case of VA when cerebral function is ordinarily absent or at best severely impaired is perplexing.27 This is particularly the case as reductions in CBF typically lead to delirium followed by coma, rather than an accurate and lucid mental state.28


    “…Our verified case of VA suggests conscious awareness may occur beyond the first 20–30 s after CA (when some residual brain elec- trical activity may occur)16 while providing a quantifiable time period of awareness after the brain ordinarily reaches an isolectric state.17–21 The case indicates the experience likely occurred during CA rather than after recovery from CA or before CA. No CBF would be expected since unlike ventricular tachycardia, VF is incompatible with cardiac contractility particularly after CPR has stopped during a rhythm check.29 Although, similar experiences have been catego- rized using the scientifically undefined and imprecise term of out of body experiences (OBE’s), and further categorized as autoscopy and optical illusions,30–32 our study suggests that VA and veridical perception during CA are dissimilar to autoscopy since patients did not describe seeing their own double.4–7 Furthermore as hallucinations refer to experiences that do not correspond with objective reality, our findings do not suggest that VA in CA is likely to be hallucinatory or illusory since the recollections corresponded with actual verified events. Our results also highlight limitations with the categorization of experiences in relation to CA as hallucinatory,33 particularly as the reality of human experience is not determined neurologically.34,35 Although alterations in specific neuro modu- lators involved with every day “real” experiences can also lead to illusions or hallucinations, however this does not prove or disprove the reality of any specific experience whether it be love, NDE’s or otherwise.34,35 In fact the reality of any experience and the meaning associated with it is determined socially (rather than neurolog- ically) through a social process whereby humans determine and ascribe meaning to phenomenon and experience within any given culture or society (including scientific groups and societies).34–35”

    What is most important is this conclusion, taken as a whole. I suggest reading the actual scientific article first, then reading the relevant references cited by the authors, and THEN making an opinion.

  24. October 14, 2014 at 8:35 PM

    Your post was very long.

    And I DID read the article as well as consult experts. I have also researched the state of parapsychology for over year. I stand by my critique – a longer version is here.

    Perhaps you are also unaware of the many other opinions that are in line with mine…

    Also, that skepticism is a NECESSARY characteristic of scientists. For good reason.

  25. John
    October 15, 2014 at 8:06 PM

    Ah, well that’s of course very good that you did indeed read the article. However, I wasn’t necessarily accusing you of not reading it (I honestly didn’t know either way) – the implication, I suppose, was that at least a few posts on this page indicated that their authors clearly did not read the article. What threw me off about your own post was that some of the information that you stated regarding the study was apparently false.

    Like I said, I am advocating that anyone who is both interested in a controversial (scientific) topic and wishes to state an opinion on it should read the primary sources (e.g., the scientific research article) before even entertaining hyped-up popular news articles – such as the one you criticize on this page, but also the equally highly biased (pseudo)”skeptical”articles, to the extent that they misrepresent the facts.

    Rigorous and reasonable skepticism is healthy, and absolutely necessary . I certainly am not denying that, and did not deny that in my post (actually quite the opposite). But if one has an a priori commitment to a categorically negative stance on a particular topic – leading to partial representation of information – then that’s not skepticism, but dogmatic denial in the face of evidence. My post tried to shed light on that side of things.

    Yes, I am sure many scientists opinions are in line with yours – and I am certain that many other scientists opinions are in line with mine. I’m sure we can go back and forth with names, but that sort of “tit for tat” thing is pointless. Besides, doing so (in and of itself) is merely an appeal to authority. Who takes your side or mine, and how many – it’s totally irrelevant to the argument, to what the truth may be.

    BTW: The (scientific, not “popular”) article cited below by authors Facco and Agrillo subject of NDEs is a fantastic summary and analysis of the data. I highly recommend anyone who is seriously interested in the subject NDEs to read that article, top to bottom.
    Facco, E. and Agrillo, C. (2012). Near-death experiences between science and prejudice. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

  26. John
    October 15, 2014 at 8:56 PM

    P.S. I forgot to say, my own stance on the the study is that indeed, it does not PROVE “life after death”. One study standing alone is never sufficient to prove anything – rather, only with independent replications – replications that confirms and extends upon the preceding studies – can we garner more evidence for a phenomena and thus increase our confidence in the results and conclusions of the researchers.

    The “AWARE” study by Sam Prnia et al. is one of eight prospective studies (seven in the last 15 years) to investigate NDEs occurring during cardiac arrest. So, I take Parnia et al. 2014’s study as contributing to a larger database – contributing more evidence in line with with the results and conclusions of the previous researchers. As with any study, Parnia et al. 2014 should be assessed in the context of a larger body of relevant research, not in total isolation.

    Where I disagree with the author is that the study is “not too impressive.” Certainly, if you are someone expecting this single study to provide, once and for all, proof of “life after death”, then yeah I guess might be deemed it “not too impressive.” But it is an total mistake to regard it as such.

    If I was to consider it in-and-of-itself, I suppose this study is about as impressive or not-impressive as the study by Van Lommel 2001, or the study by Sartori et al. 2006. I think Parnia et al. 2014 replicates and extends upon the findings of these studies, and further clarifies the nature of the NDE phenomena. And while it doesn’t prove life after death, I think – in agreement with the many authors of this study – that it provides a bit more evidence for the possibility that some aspects of mind extend beyond the brain-body-ego, or that merely the functions of brain are entirely necessary for certain states of consciousness. That is my conclusion – appropriately minimalistic, and based entirely upon the data/evidence and lines of argument presented by the researchers of these studies.

  27. October 15, 2014 at 9:27 PM

    To cite “tit for tat” is to claim a balance or equal evidence on both sides. That is erroneous. It’s certain that “near death experiences” exist but as Parnia points out, what does NDE really mean? It’s not a sound definition. I will err on the conservative side and say that the human brain is responsible for it all; there is no need to postulate an additional, unproven idea to account for it, especially one that invokes the supernatural idea of life after death.

    If you have more to say on this, this is not the place. This is not a forum.

  28. Focault
    October 17, 2014 at 8:07 PM

    According to the study of Dr. Parnia and other DNE researchers, there are people who experienced a feeling of joy, peace or pleasantness and others who experienced negative feelings/events. From a believer perspective, that could mean going either to heaven or to hell. However, once I was hospitalized and during a critical moment for my health I had a very intense lucid dream and I experienced both (good and bad) feelings in my trip. Despite I was not dying, I felt a death feeling almost imminent.

    Thus, I would dare say that my lucid dream was such a kind of NDE. First, I was in heaven and then I went to hell. It would be interesting to hear such recollection from people who had NDEs. May be that at the beginning one could experience an heavenly environment, but during the dying process a bad trip could even occur.

  29. G
    November 11, 2014 at 12:04 AM

    I found this rather intriguing:

    It doesn’t say there and I am fighting with my computer so I can’t keep searching, but I remember articles about ketamine being associated with the “tunnel of light” too.

    Perhaps some mechanism in the brain to try to interpret sensations that the brain isn’t really equipped to interpret?

  30. Dan Mitchell
    November 18, 2014 at 7:32 AM

    Dear Michael, As an expert on world religions you state assertions with a bias normally seen in a belief system, which is a problem for lazy thinkers. Belief based syllogisms do not constitute reasonable logic, unless one is preaching to the choir, which you are. Granted most major religions separate humans from animals, i.e Catholics, Muslims, but not all. Hinduism believes the soul or atman evolves from animal to human. Look a little deeper into Buddhism and you’ll find those who claim true Buddhists hold no beliefs about life after death, likewise Taoism. A Buddhist may object to being told they are a religion however, they hold it’s a practice nothing more. The Dalai Lama has repeated a message that compassion and leading a good life is more important then beliefs. As for reality, is there a reality beyond our 5 senses, yes. Will we create some subjective idea about it, probably. Is that reality? Science is a method to determine facts about reality, but it’s not reality itself, which remains undefinable.

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