A groundbreaking paper published by Dr. Ajmal Zemmar and Professor Raul Vicente Zafra may have solved the mystery of what happens when we die.
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One of the questions that everyone wants to know the solution to may have been answered by coincidence. A groundbreaking study (read below) provides solid new proof that our lives indeed flash before our eyes as we shuffle off this earthly coil, challenging our concept of the time at which death happens.
Dr. Ajmal Zemmar, a neurosurgeon at the University of Louisville in the United States, discovered something so profound that it calls into question whether someone genuinely dies. He was caring for an 87-year-old patient who had a bleed between his brain and his skull.
The patient began having seizures after Zemmar removed the clot, so an electroencephalogram (EEG) was placed to record his brain activity. This was all standard procedure.
“The thing that changed the standard was this: while the EEG was recording, the patient suffered a cardiac arrest and died. So, now, all of a sudden, we have the first-ever recording from life to death in the human brain,” Zemmar added.
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It may not seem significant to the average person, but there are a few reasons why such behaviour has never been documented previously. To begin with, it is difficult to predict when someone will die and hence be prepared to quantify it. Second, recording a heartbeat – that is, the activity of the heart rather than the brain – is the acknowledged way to measure life.
“What we do as standard is record EKG [electrocardiogram] activity. When we have a patient in the ICU, we don’t, as standard, record EEG,” said Zemmar. “So, one thing our study might open up for discussion is this: is it worthwhile considering recording EEG? When do we die – is it when the heart stops beating or when the brain stops reacting?”
Professor Raul Vicente Zafra of the University of Tartu in Estonia, along with Zemmar and his colleagues, recently released a paper titled “Enhanced Interplay of Neuronal Coherence and Coupling in the Dying Human Brain.” They discovered a surge in brain activity following ‘death’ by analyzing the data.
“There’s a frequency called the gamma band, which is electrical activity in your brain going up and down 40 or 50 times per second … And we saw that, after cardiac arrest, the power of this rhythm increased,” Vicente explained. “We also saw the power increase in this same frequency range when someone was engaged in activities like memorising a list of words, for example.”
According to the data gathered by the researchers, the likelihood of our lives flashing before our eyes at breakneck speed after we die is a real possibility. If we have the misfortune to have a cardiac arrest, such oscillations last for a full 30 seconds before we die.
A previous paper, in Zemmar’s opinion, provides further proof of this theory: “In a study in rats that was done nine years ago by colleagues in the United States, they saw very similar findings around the time of death in those that had no injury and had a clean, healthy brain. In these rats, they were observing very similar findings to what we’re seeing in the human brain.”
Zemmar and Vicente’s research was put on hold while they analyzed their data, but they’ve now published it and are raising some serious questions.
“One of the things we would like to open up for discussion is this: if, when we say the patient ‘died’, we refer to the time when their heart stopped, is that correct? Because, if their brain keeps going, are they really dead? ” Zemmar assumed.
“We would rather say, in this case, that, after the heart stopped pumping blood, we recorded 30 seconds of activity in the brain. To us, the patient was not yet dead, by definition.”
The study has sparked worldwide interest, indicating how significant these discoveries could be. However, Zemmar and Vicente have put in a lot of effort to ensure that their study is as reliable as possible.
Vicente added, “We’ve been working on this data set for quite some time – that’s something people don’t realise – so it’s very nice now to get the rewards and the attention, and see them being interested. All this analysis takes time and it’s been the work of months, if not years.”
However, the neuroscientists recognize that they only have data from one patient, and that the extreme nature of obtaining identical data means their study is unlikely to be replicated on a large scale.
“We have one case, and one is better than none. We’ve waited for quite some time to go out with this, hoping there would be more people coming along to give us more cases, but there simply aren’t any,” Zemmar remarked.
Some may still be perplexed as to why they can’t simply repeat their study. “The difficulty is we would have to speak with families and say, ‘In the last moments, would you be OK with us doing an experiment?’ Even if families would agree to this, you can’t predict death,” said Zemmar.
“So, when the patient dies and you keep them artificially alive with machines and put on electrodes, I don’t know how much true brain activity you would capture and how much would be the brain saying goodbye and the heart artificially working.”
He and Vicente hope that by exposing their data, other scientists with comparable research will share it with them, allowing for more conclusions to be formed in what is unquestionably one of the most important scientific investigations in history, bringing death into question.
“There is no scientific evidence that the patient would really have died when the heart stopped beating, if you just look at the pure data we have. It might be a few seconds later, maybe in some other patients it’s a few seconds less or more. I don’t know. But it’s fair to say, maybe what we declared as death was a few seconds too early,”added Zemmar.
Each person’s situation may be unique. Is it exactly 20 seconds? Is it really 45 seconds? Is it really 90 seconds?
Both men were grinning and evidently proud that their work is gaining so much favorable attention when they spoke to RT through Zoom. It could also mark the end of an unbelievable journey for Zemmar, who escaped Afghanistan with his parents when he was six years old, arriving in Berlin only three days before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. He was born and reared there before moving abroad to pursue a career in neuroscience.
Zemmar added,“The moment we saw similar findings to what they had seen in the rat study… those are the moments you live for as a scientist. It’s like when a soccer player wins the World Cup. It was one of the most unforgettable moments we’ve ever had.”
Of course, what occurs when we die is a spiritual as well as a scientific subject. Surprisingly, this research may be more useful to the living than the dead. “I’ve received messages from friends and patients who recently lost a family member,” ” says Zemmar.
“They said the idea that their loved one might have been having a flashback of the nicest moments of the life that they’d experienced together gave them calm at the moment they had to say goodbye.”
Read the study below: