Terminal lucidity defies mainstream view of brain

by | Jun 5, 2024 | Consciousness, Consciousness Theories, Health & Wellbeing, Life & Death, Near-Death Experiences (NDE), Psychology, Story Ideas | 0 comments

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 coined terminal lucidity by Near-Death Experience (NDE) researchers Michael Nahm and Bruce Greyson. According to Nahm and Greyson, 43 percent of people who experience this brief lucidity die within a day, while 84 percent pass within a week.

Psychologist Steve Taylor notes in Psychology Today that while terminal lucidity has been documented since ancient times, it still has no explanation in standard medicine. From a mainstream perspective it makes little sense.

However, the phenomenon adds a piece to the consciousness puzzle.

Many people figure that consciousness is produced by the brain, but terminal lucidity seems to contradict this.

“If it were the case, how would it be possible for severely damaged brains to produce normal consciousness? That would be like a broken television producing clear images”, Taylor writes.

He proposes that the brain transmits consciousness rather than produces it. This rhymes with a philosophical orientation like Idealism, but Taylor introduces a slightly different perspective on consciousness which he calls panspiritism. He describes it as occupying the middle ground between idealism and dualism and connects it with certain Eastern traditions:

“Indeed, this is how the Indian philosophy of Bhedabheda Vedanta—which is very similar to panspiritism—is often conceived, as an integration of monist and dualist traditions.”

Terminal lucidity is reported not only in old people but also in children with terminal conditions. This was investigated in a scientific paper published last year by a team of researchers including Greyson, neuropsychologist Peter Fenwick, and neuroscientist Marjorie Woollacott. They wrote:

“Unanticipated and unexplained changes in mental clarity, verbal communication, and/or physical capability in the days and hours before the death of the pediatric patients were observed. Each patient’s medical condition should not have allowed for such changes.”

Taylor is senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Beckett University in the U.K. He is the author of Spiritual Science, The Leap, Out of the Darkness and other books.

Anders Bolling

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