© Adri Berger/Getty Images
Near-death experiences often feature out-of-body episodes.
Near-death experiences are rare, but if you have one, it is likely to be overwhelmingly peaceful, however painful it might have been to get to that stage. This is the conclusion from the first study into how the cause of trauma affects the content of a near-death experience.
Such episodes are often described as emotionally rich, involving out-of-body sensations, tunnels of light and flashbacks
. They most often occur when a person has been resuscitated after a traumatic event.
, a neuroscientist at the University of Liège in Belgium who works with people in comas and vegetative states
, started to investigate after his patients told him of their own near-death experiences. "I kept hearing these incredible stories in my consultations," he says. "Knowing how abnormal brain activity is during a cardiac arrest or trauma, it was impressive how rich these memories were. It was very intriguing."
There are several hypothesises as to how these events arise, such as lack of oxygen to the brain or damage to areas that control emotion
. "So you'd expect to see differences between near-death experiences after drowning and those of other traumas," he says.
His team looked at 190 documented events that resulted from traumas including cardiac arrest, drowning, head injury and high anxiety. Using statistical analysis and a measurement called the Greyson scale
to assess the number and intensity of different features of the near-death experiences, the team discovered that surprisingly, the reports shared many similarities.