Blimey, shouldn’t doctors know some doctoring?

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.

 

Hmm.

 

“We know the brain can’t function when the heart has stopped beating,” said Dr Sam Parnia, a former research fellow at Southampton University, now at the State University of New York, who led the study.

“But in this case, conscious awareness appears to have continued for up to three minutes into the period when the heart wasn’t beating, even though the brain typically shuts down within 20-30 seconds after the heart has stopped.

Well, you’ve just said there that the brain doesn’t work when the heart stops: but that it works for 20-30 seconds when the heart stops. And then your amazing finding is that perhaps it doesn’t stop for 3 minutes or more after the heart stops.

Which isn’t, when you think about it, really evidence of life after death. It’s evidence that the transition from life to death takes a little longer than you’ve previously been estimating. And that’s not all that much of a surprise either. Because people have been “brought back to life” after the heart stops without brain damage. Thus the brain can indeed survive for some period of time without it getting new oxygen from the bloodstream.

9 comments on “Blimey, shouldn’t doctors know some doctoring?

  1. didn’t they once do a adhoc experiment at the french guillotine. A executed medic agreed to blink as long as he could after decapitation.

    Maybe more medics should do more experiments of this nature.

  2. I can tell you from personal experience (one I survived, obviously) that the brain shuts down pretty much immediately the heart stops beating – at least from the POV of the conscious mind of the owner of the brain. That there is some residual activity while there is still oxygen in there is no surprise, but I doubt it’s enough to keep you awake worrying about it.

  3. So what this research has confirmed is what we’ve known for ages – if the heart stops completely then with the odd exception, such as extreme hypothermia, you have about 2-3 minutes before the medulla oblongata, which controls key elements of the autonomic nervous system including the heart beat, packs in permanently, at which point you’re brain dead.

    That the rest of the brain shuts down in 20-30 seconds is entirely unsurprising, that’s just your body automatically diverting its rapidly dwindling resources to try to keep the medulla going for as long as possible because when that’s gone, you’re gone.

    There’s nothing here that medics haven’t understood perfectly well for ages. All I’ve done above is repeat what I was taught 30 years ago and these were well established facts at the time, which suggests a distinct whiff of money for old rope about this research.

  4. At the cellular level your Na+/K+ pump is what keeps you alive. The heart is the delivery system for oxygen from the lungs to the body. If it stops cell death only occurs when reserves of ATP (cell’s energy source) are exhausted and the pump fails. This takes time so why is everyone surprised.

  5. When I died I fell on my bike and the mechanical shock restarted my heart. Clearly, just to play safe everyone should always push a bike around.

  6. @dearieme
    The Speaker of the HoC is obviously a very cautious man when it comes to cardiac matters.

  7. We live in a social media culture. When someone learns something they didn’t know before, they tell the world. Open comment, like freedom of speech, can have many benefits. Occasionally though, as in this case, it gets the proper response of, “Well, duh!”

  8. Tim,

    Well, you’ve just said there that the brain doesn’t work when the heart stops: but that it works for 20-30 seconds when the heart stops. And then your amazing finding is that perhaps it doesn’t stop for 3 minutes or more after the heart stops.

    No, you have misread that bit. The researchers’ amazing finding is that conscious awareness can continue for three minutes or more after the heart stops. You have substituted “the brain works” for “conscious awareness continues” and thus arrived at something that is not what they actually said.

    Unity,

    > So what this research has confirmed is what we’ve known for ages – if the heart stops completely then with the odd exception, such as extreme hypothermia, you have about 2-3 minutes before the medulla oblongata, which controls key elements of the autonomic nervous system including the heart beat, packs in permanently, at which point you’re brain dead.

    No, this research is not about how long your brain biologically survives but about whether you have conscious awareness until it dies. And they have discovered that people are able to accurately recount events that occurred when established medicine says they should have no consciousness. Conscious awareness is considerably more than just the autonomic nervous system.

    The Telegraph‘s headline is completely stupid, but it doesn’t appear to have come from the researchers.

  9. When I died I fell on my bike and the mechanical shock restarted my heart. Clearly, just to play safe everyone should always push a bike around.
    @dearieme

    With respect you didn’t die. Death is irreversible. By definition.

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