An 87-year-old man was undergoing an electroencephalography (EEG) when he suffered a heart attack and died. According to an international team of researchers, the brain scans recorded in the 30 seconds before and after his death revealed very unexpected brain activity that could possibly indicate that his life flashed before his eyes, as the saying goes.
"Given that cross-coupling between alpha and gamma activity is involved in cognitive processes and memory recall in healthy subjects, it is intriguing to speculate that such activity could support a last 'recall of life' that may take place in the near-death state," the researchers wrote in the scientific journal Frontiers in Ageing Neuroscience.
From The Guardian:
However, the findings are based on the recordings from just one person, and the researchers urge caution, noting among other factors that traumatic brain injuries and white matter damage can affect brain waves, while activity of networks in the brain can be affected by anticonvulsant medication such as that given to the patient[…]
"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," said Dr Ajmal Zemmar, a neurosurgeon at the University of Louisville, US, and a co-author of the study.
Prof Anil Seth, a neuroscientist at the University of Sussex who was not involved in the research, said the data was "pretty unique", noting ethically it was not possible to plan the collection of such recordings. But, he added, questions remained[…]
"This study, showing similar findings in a dying human, is both moving and fascinating, but whether the recorded activity underlies any particular kind of subjective experience – whether so-called 'near death experiences', or impressions of life flashing before ones eyes – is impossible to say, and will likely remain so."