Doctors Witness Brain Activity In Coma Patients As Life Support Is Ended
Most people don’t want to spend time thinking about what it would be like if they or someone they loved ended up in what doctor’s deemed an irreversible coma.
It is obviously a reality for many people, though, and I cannot imagine what it might be like to learn one day that a loved one’s brain might not be quite as dead as originally thought.
A team of scientists made the discovery while analyzing the brain activity of two comatose patients right after they were taken off life support – a surge in activity in the area of the brain associated with consciousness.
This occurred even after their hearts stopped beating, and the scientists involved believe this could explain why so many people who have had near-death experiences report vivid visions in those moments.
They acknowledge that the sample size is small, but maintain the findings are an intriguing look into what could be going inside a dying human brain.
Co-author George Mashour thinks so, anyway.
“How vivid experience can emerge from a dysfunctional brain during the process of dying is a neuroscientific paradox.
Two of their four patients exhibited the spike in gamma waves after being withdrawn from life support – activity that was also viewed by the same team in rats that were experiencing cardiac arrest.
“These findings prompted us to investigate the neural activity of the brain in the dying patients before and after clinical withdrawal of ventilatory support.”
The downside (one of them) is that there is no way to gather more data or ask followup questions of these patients, as they never regained consciousness after the spikes were recorded.
“We are unable to make correlations of the observed neural signatures of consciousness with a corresponding experience in the same patients in this study. However, the observed findings are definitely exciting and provide a new framework for our understanding of covert consciousness in the dying humans.”
It definitely brings up some pretty big questions, I think.
Maybe someday science will provide the corresponding big answers.