Going Out with a Bang

People who are resuscitated from near death often report strange sensory phenomena, such as memories “flashing before their eyes.” Now a rare assessment of brain activity just before death offers clues about why such experiences occur.

Anesthesiologist Lakhmir Chawla of George Washington University Medical Center and his colleagues recently published a retrospective analysis of brain activity in seven sedated, critically ill patients as they were removed from life support. Using EEG recordings of neural electrical activity, Chawla found a brief but significant spike at or near the time of death–despite a preceding loss of blood pressure and associated drop in brain activity.

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