Near-Death Experiences are a hot topic in mainstream media

by | May 19, 2024 | Consciousness, Life & Death, Near-Death Experiences (NDE), Out-of-Body Experiences (OBE), Press Watch, Spirituality | 0 comments

May 2024

The press is ramping up its coverage of Near-Death Experiences as more scientific research is published and more high-profile experiencers share their stories.

Scientific American published a long-form piece on cutting edge research on consciousness and NDEs, and The Guardian recently published a similar piece.

The NDE phenomenon is gradually becoming accepted in clinics and medical research, although there is a lot of disagreement on how to interpret it.

“We clearly don’t question the reality of Near-Death Experiences anymore”, says Charlotte Martial, a neuroscientist in Liège in Belgium.

The Scientific American article by Rachel Nuwer features a number of leading scientists in the field, such as Sam Parnia, director of resuscitation research at New York University, and neuroscientist Christoph Koch, who recently released a book where he writes about his own NDE. Koch is regarded as one of the chief proponents of a theory on consciousness called Integrated Information Theory (IIT).

Raymond Moody, the pioneer who coined the term “Near-Death Experience”, is mentioned, along with more recent researchers with a physicalist bias (Jimo Borjigin at University of Michigan and Daniel Kondziella at Copenhagen’s Rigshospitalet).

An astounding 5 percent to 10 percent of the general population is estimated to have memories of an NDE, including somewhere between 10 percent to 23 percent of cardiac arrest survivors. 

Scientific American lists some of the common features of NDEs: leaving one’s body, a sense of vastness, being enveloped in unconditional love, passing through a tunnel, having a life review, and meeting either deceased loved ones, compassionate entities or prominent spiritual or religious figures.

Nuwer points out that there are important existential implications, “although exactly what those might be continues to be debated in the scientific literature and at conferences”.

Assistant professor of psychiatry Anthony Bossis at New York University notes that these kinds of transcendent experiences are found in spiritual traditions all across the world.

“Might they have some greater purpose for helping humanity cultivate understanding and awareness of consciousness?” he asks.

Perhaps surprisingly, religious people are not more prone to NDEs than other people, according to the article. But there is one group that is more likely than others to have an NDE: those who are prone to REM sleep intrusion. This is a condition where the dream state briefly enters the waking state and blurs the line between the two. In a Danish study from 2019, 10 percent of a global sample of 1,034 adults had experienced an NDE, and of those, 47 percent also reported REM sleep intrusion.

There are striking similarities between NDEs and the experiences people report after having taken psychedelics, which also seems to shut down large areas of the brain.

“Regardless of how people interpret NDEs, studying them may expand the boundaries of resuscitation, provide a better understanding of mind and brain, and shine a flicker of light on some of the deepest mysteries of existence”, the article concludes.

A new documentary on NDEs is under way, produced by filmmaker Anthony Chene (see FJN article here).

Anders Bolling

Story Ideas

Psi researchers think the same way as academic sceptics

June 2024 A new study by three researchers at the University of Virginia shows that the cognitive style of psi researchers is no different than that of academics who are sceptic to psi phenomena. Why are people more or less prone to believing in psi phenomena like...

Remote viewers perform better in certain emotional states

June 2024 Precognition -- the ability to sense seemingly unpredictable future events -- is one of the most robust psi phenomena. A number of studies have provided evidence for precognition, where participants must implicitly or explicitly predict future outcome of...

Study: Single focus in meditation boosts brainwaves best

May/June 2024 Despite the increasing popularity of meditation in the Western world, there is still very limited knowledge about the neural correlates of this practice. In a new study done in collaboration with a Tibetan monastery in India, Italian researchers show...

Is it possible be ‘no one’, philosophers ask 

June 2024 The entire June 2024 issue of Journal of Consciousness Studies is dedicated to one intricate question: Is subjectless consciousness possible? Ten philosophers offer their respective take. All experience needs an experiencer, notes Galen Strawson, but that...

Terminal lucidity defies mainstream view of brain

June 2024 People who have had Alzheimer's or dementia for years sometimes display a strange surge of vitality shortly before death. They recognise relatives, remember names and events and converse coherently. Hours or days later, they pass away. This phenomenon was...

Lack of “inner voice” seen as clue to consciousness enigma 

May/June 2024 In mindfulness and meditation practices, the importance of silencing your “inner voice” is often emphasised. The never-ending chatter going on inside is sometimes referred to as the “monkey mind”. Thinking can obviously be any kind of inner imagining,...

Religious scientists work in culture of “assumed atheism”

May 2024 Scientists who personally practice a faith tradition do manage to reconcile the seemingly at-odds worldviews. Many say that while it can be challenging and uncomfortable to speak openly at work, due to a perceived taboo of being spiritual in such an objective...

Astrobiologist: Consciousness preceded life

May 2024 Most scientists believe that consciousness emerged after life, as a product of evolution. But there is reason to believe that consciousness preceded life, argues astrobiologist Stuart Hameroff and collaborators Anirban Bandyopadhyay and Dante Lauretta, in the...