Some of the greatest discoveries have only happened by chance. Earlier this year, scientists wanted to measure the brainwaves of an elderly man with epilepsy that developed late in life. However, after a tragic turn of events, they discovered something remarkable.
A recording of a dying brain
When we die, it is said that our life flashes before our eyes. In movies, this comes like a montage of scenes, good and bad. Each one reminds the person of the life they lived. Showing them where they have come from and where they ended up. The experience usually instills a sense of gratitude. In reality, we don’t know if this happens, although people who have had near-death experiences say they have had glimpses of their past.
In February 2022, the world was accidentally presented with some exciting data. In the study, which was published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, they wanted to measure an 87-year-old’s brain waves as he had developed epilepsy late in life. However, the reading they got was not what they had bargained for. He ended up suffering a heart attack that took his life, but he happened to be connected to the machines that could read his brain waves, and consequently, the machine recorded what happens as a brain dies.
The scientists were blown away by what they saw. According to reports, the patient’s brain showed the same brain waves we experience while dreaming or recalling memories. This happened for 30 seconds before he died and after. The same brain waves they saw right before he died are the same waves we all use for higher cognitive activities.
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“Recall of life“
In an interview with BBC, one of the study’s co-authors spoke about their hypothesis. Dr. Ajmal Zemmar said that they think the dying man’s brain waves reflected a last-minute “recall of life.” He also confirmed that their finding happened completely by accident. “This was actually totally by chance, we did not plan to do this experiment or record these signals,” said Dr. Zemmar.
People wonder if this means we will see all our loved ones and the best moments of our life, or maybe even our regrets. However, Dr. Zemmar was adamant that we will never know this until it is our time to pass. “If I were to jump to the philosophical realm, I would speculate that if the brain did a flashback, it would probably like to remind you of good things, rather than the bad things,” he said. “But what’s memorable would be different for every person.”
Dr. Zemmar said that this study is not the be-all and end-all. We cannot draw solid conclusions from just one study with only one accidental test subject. There will have to be more studies done to understand how the brain works, and whether or not it’s the same for everyone. “I never felt comfortable to report one case,” Dr. Zemmar said.
For many years, he tried to find other patients who might participate in the study, but alas, he was unsuccessful. However, a similar test was done on healthy rats in a 2013 study. This study boasted the same findings that Dr. Zemmar’s epileptic patient showed. For 30 seconds before and after the rat died, its brainwaves showed high activity. “I think there’s something mystical and spiritual about this whole near-death experience,” Dr. Zemmar said. “And findings like this – it’s a moment that scientists live for.”
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