People who have been near death often claim to have seen and experienced events such as bright white light at the end of a long tunnel or encounters with lost family members or pets. Despite the apparent supernatural nature of these experiences, science can explain why they happen and what they really are, say British scholars Neil Daniel and Ken Drinkwater in an article published in The Conversation.
The experience near death is a "deeply psychological event with mystical elements," experts explain, remembering that such a condition can be caused by situations of severe physical or emotional pain but also after suffering from heart attack or traumatic brain injuries or even meditation is practiced.
One third of people who have experienced this type of situation claim to have experienced common feelings of satisfaction, psychological detachment, swift movements through a long dark tunnel to access bright light, scientists say.
They also emphasize that culture and age also play an important role. For example, many Indians claim to have met Jama, a Hindu god of death, while Americans say they have met Jesus. In addition, children often describe having friends and teachers.
In 2009, neuro scientists Olaf Blanke and Sebastian Dieguez proposed two typologies of near-death experiences. The first type is associated with those cases where the right hemisphere of the brain is affected, resulting in a change in the sense of time and the impression of flying. The second, associated with lesion in the left hemisphere, is characterized by vision or communication with spirits and hearing voices, sounds or music.
Another important role is played by the temporary lobes: this area of the brain is involved in the processing of sensory information and memory, so unusual activity in these leaves can cause strange sensations and perceptions.
What is the reason?
Although there are several theories that try to explain the experiences near death, it's hard to get to the bottom of what they are getting, say, Daggel and Drinkwater. They stress that religious people believe that these episodes show that life exists outside of death (in particular, the separation of the spirit from the body), whereas scientific explanations of this type of phenomena point to depersonalisation, which is as determined by the sense of separation from the body.
The scientific author, Carl Sagan, suggested in 1979 that the stressful stress of death should cause a memory of childbirth, suggesting that the "tunnel" people see is a new image of the birth canal.
Meanwhile, other researchers attribute this experience to cerebral anoxia, the lack of oxygen in the brain. In this sense, there are testimonies of pilots who have experienced a loss of knowledge at rapid accelerations and described features close to near-death experiences, such as seeing a tunnel. Lack of oxygen can also cause temporal lobe attacks, causing hallucinations.
The most common explanation, however, is the "dead brain hypothesis," a theory that suggests that near-death experiences are hallucinations caused by activity in the brain as the cells begin to die. However, this theory does not explain the full spectrum of sensations that can be observed during these episodes, such as extracorporeal experiences.
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