Death is an uncomfortable subject for many people. Many shy away from any conversation involving it. But the truth is, mortality is a fact of life.
We’re all the same in death’s eyes and we all die.
One the reasons why many people shy away from the conversation of death is because we know so little about it. Perhaps, if we knew more about the whole process of dying, especially what happens afterward, we might be less afraid of it.
However, as certain and permanent as death is, we do know little bits about it. Or at least, from what happens to our body when we die, we’re able to take a stab at determining what happens to us.
But what happens to us when we die? Do Angels sing to us as we slowly fade into black?
An Austrailian neurologist, Dr. Cameron Shaw, recently dissected a human brain to show us what happens to us in the moments before death.
I understand this is a sensitive subject for some. So, if you’re not entirely keen on the subject I advise that you look away.
The remains belonged to a woman who donated her body to the Deakin University as her contribution towards science. Dr. Shaw dissected her brain to explain its structure.
He then went on to explain how that structure and composition can affect the process of death.
Dr. Shaw explained that over the course of millions of years, the brain has developed in layers. Layers and different structures have been added to the complexity of human bodies has evolved.
It’s believed that the basal ganglia, is the most primitive area and the first developed area.
They control basic desires like hunger, libido, and movement.
Structures related to more intellectual and emotional complex functions, like the hippocampus and the temporal lobe, slowly emerged around the basal ganglia.
This added capabilities such as memory and learning.
The cerebral cortex is the outermost layer of the brain is believed to have evolved most recently. It consists of four lobes which control morality and ability to plan for the future.
This system of layering is crucial to our understanding of death.
According to Dr. Shaw, the brain dies in stages.
As the blood supply comes from below, the outer layers, which control our higher and more ‘human’ functions die first. This dies around 10 or 20 seconds before death.
Then the areas controlling memory and communication go next, which leaves the core of the brain till last.
People who are left with a living and active core are technically alive because they retain vital signs, but according to Dr. Shaw, they exist in a vegetative state.
“For all intents and purposes, you could say they’re dead because they don’t have a consciousness or an awareness of their surroundings. But if these basal structures are intact they’ll still breath and have a pulse.”
The theory that our personality and character dying first is an interesting and terrifying idea.
Also, the thought of out baser instincts fighting it out till the end is an interesting interpretation of death and the process of it.
With more research and more understanding, the future only holds more exciting and interesting revelations about the human brain.
This discovery could mark a huge shift in our view and fear of death.