First-ever recording of dying human brain reveals dreaming-like activity


Researchers have recorded the activity of a dying human brain for the first time, and detected activity associated with dreaming and memory recall PHOTO/Depositphotos

“My whole life flashed before my eyes” is a phrase we often hear regarding near-death experiences – and there just might be some truth to it. Scientists have recorded the activity of a dying human brain for the first time ever, revealing brain wave patterns related to processes like dreaming and memory recall.

The study wasn’t specifically designed to measure the brain’s activity around the time of death – it was just a matter of happenstance. The researchers were continuously monitoring the brain waves of an 87-year-old epilepsy patient using EEG, to watch for seizures. However, during the treatment the patient suddenly had a heart attack and died.

As such, the researchers managed to record 15 minutes of brain activity around the time of death. They focused in on the 30 seconds either side of when the heart stopped beating, and detected increased activity in types of brain waves known as gamma oscillations. These are involved in processes such as dreaming, meditation and memory retrieval, giving a glimpse into what a person may be experiencing during their final moments.

“Through generating oscillations involved in memory retrieval, the brain may be playing a last recall of important life events just before we die, similar to the ones reported in near-death experiences,” said Dr. Ajmal Zemmar, lead author of the study. “These findings challenge our understanding of when exactly life ends and generate important subsequent questions, such as those related to the timing of organ donation.”

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