Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

There have many relatively recent studies on consciousness. The current theory is that consciousness is where the memories are stored, not the brain. Many scientists have postulated that as an information storage unit the brain cannot possibly hold all the information. Therefore, the brain is more of an accessing unit much like a radio receiver. Additional findings have shown that the way we remember is not as a computer disk drive, but rather we store a core memory attached to an emotion and then file it in an concept area in the brain. When we retrieve our memories, we are programmed to "fill in the gaps." Therefore brain memories rarely are 100% totally accurate. However, that being said, the NDEs report 100% life reviews of every thought, deed, and how we made others feel. This is the computer hard drive - the consciousness that survives death. When consciousness returns to the body, it takes typically 7 years to have those intense memories of the NDE to funnel through the brain. My guess is that it is such an intense experience that it may create in the brain what is known as a "flashbulb moment." These are times that the brain takes a picture of a particular instance, usually occurring in times of heightened sensory and emotional input or life-threatening moments. These memories are ingrained in the brain and the person can recall like it happened yesterday.
It has been suggested that NDEs are not memories of events that actually happened, but rather are "false memories," products of the imagination. This idea comes in part from recent psychological studies suggesting that it is possible to implant false memories into research subjects so that they truly believe imaginary events actually occurred to them. However, those psychological studies that implant false memories take considerable effort to suggest to the subject that the experience really did happen, using repetition and encouragement of suggestible children to recall experiences suggested by the authoritative experimenter. If that model were used to explain NDE, who is it that is making those efforts to implant the false memories in NDErs, repeatedly suggesting to them that they had an NDE?

Although I do not think implanted "false memories" are a plausible explanation for NDEs, there are real questions about how to interpret NDE accounts, especially from people who do not recall their NDEs immediately, but seem to remember their NDEs only after some time has passed. For example, in my research with patients hospitalized for attempted suicide, I identified for monthly follow-up interviews those who described NDEs as a result of the suicide attempt and a matched control group who denied having had NDEs. There were a few "control" patients who, on follow-up visits, later described NDEs in the course of their initial suicide attempt. They all told me that they simply didn't trust me sufficiently in our initial interview to share the NDE.

This should not be surprising, because many of them were concerned about being regarded as crazy - particularly when they were being interviewed by a psychiatrist shortly after a suicide attempt, when they were trying to gain release from the hospital! For example, one patient who initially denied any memories of being unconscious later told me about watching her unconscious body being resuscitated after her overdose. A month later, she said that, now that she knew I wouldn't misuse the information, she could trust me with what REALLY happened, and she told me about kundalini-like sensations as she flowed out of the crown of her head to leave her body. A month after that, she told me that NOW she trusted me enough to tell me about her meeting with her deceased father. The next month it was her encounter with Jesus. And so it went, with new revelations in each interview. I suspect there were some parts of her NDE that were so personal that I never would have heard about them if the study had lasted a lifetime.

The question becomes: How are we do differentiate (a) patients genuinely increasing their trust in us and opening up more and more from (b) patients making up stories after the fact (consciously or unconsciously) and retroactively attributing them to the time of the initial event? There is no easy answer to this question. There are some preliminary studies suggesting that functional MRI imaging of the brain may be able to differentiate "true" from "false" memories, but short of subjecting NDErs to fMRIs, we don't have a technology for distinguishing memories of real events from imagination. However, unless we have some reason to suspect that an NDEr is highly suggestible AND has had some strong motivation to imagine having had an NDE, there is no rational reason to assume that the NDE is a "false memory."

A special thanks to Dr. Bruce Greyson, one of the founding fathers of NDE research. Bonner-Lowry Professor of Personality Studies, Department of Psychiatric Medicine, University of Virginia Health System

Another key part of the longitudinal study by van Lommel and cited in the Lancet, was the effect of time, memory and suppression of the NDE during the integration process. The commentary in the Lancet talks of NDEs being the result of false memories. Interestingly, if this were true, then this rationale could not explain why the study found that people could recall their NDE exactly over the span of a 2-year and an 8-year period. Id. at 2041. Moreover, the skeptic commentary quoted memory studies of children, but lacked information on adults. The cardiac arrest population consisted of adults rather than children. There was a profound lack of explanation as to what constitutes false memory, and many in the field of psychology agree that false memory is credited with filling in small gaps in memory rather than inventing whole stories. Near Death Experience In Survivors of Cardiac Arrest: A Prospective Study in the Netherlands, Pim van Lommel, et al, THE LANCET • Vol 358 • December 15, 2001.
Although there are many answers to this multifaceted question, part of the controversy stems from the way science proves observed phenomena. "Science" is defined as the process used to find truth. Best Evidence, Schmicker, Michael, pg 37. "In contrast, 'Scientism' is a philosophy of materialism, masquerading as scientific truth. Paranormal research, has used the process of science to prove the existence of a variety of phenomena, that simply doesn't fit within Scientism's philosophy of materialism. If evidence conflicts with philosophy, the evidence should not be dismissed; instead, the philosophy should be revised." Id.
"Skeptics have done valuable and respectable work in challenging paranormal claims." Best Evidence, Schmicker, Michael, pg 40. Healthy skepticism helps to find the truth. A true skeptic is someone who "express[es] uncertainty or doubt, non belief rather than disbelief. In contrast, too many skeptics and debunkers are disbelievers, offering answers rather than questions." Id. 

"Skeptics point to the possibility of errors in observation," but there are many documented cases involving "multiple, independent witnesses whose testimony agrees." Id. at 36.

"Skeptics warn that some people who report paranormal events may be biased towards belief in their reality." The counterargument is that "many skeptics bring an equally unscientific bias towards disbelief to their investigations - a prejudice so strong that they won't accept a phenomenon even if they personally witness or experience it." Id.

Skeptics argue that people who report paranormal events are only looking for attention. The counter argument is "most eyewitnesses of a strange, paranormal event have little to gain and much to lose by reporting them. They're usually branded as wackos and nut cases." "It's just not socially acceptable to profess a belief in a non-material world beyond the five senses. As a result, under-reporting of these phenomena is more likely than over-reporting." Id.
NDEs are not HALLUCINATIONS: Outside of the control group of 121, Mel Morse interviewed 37 children that had been treated with mind-altering medication (anesthetic agents, narcotics, Valium, Thorazine, Holdol, Dilantin, antidepressants, mood elevators, and painkillers. None of the children experienced an NDE or anything close to an NDE. One child specifically due to the nature of her medical condition, was helped to hallucinate. Nothing she described resembled an NDE. Further, she told Morse that she was fully cognizant of being hypnotized. Closer to the Light, Learning from the Near-Death Experiences of Children, Melvin Morse M.D., with Paul Perry, Ballantine Books 1991, pg 23-24.
My reply is that I have observed people who are hallucinating on medications. During those hallucinations they can not hold a logical conversation with me. They are completely lost in their hallucinations.

In contrast, I have interrupted dying people who were conversing with deceased relatives that I could not see. When interrupted, they could talk with me in a completely rational fashion and make complete sense. When we completed our conversation, they went back to talking with their deceased relatives, clearly preferring their company to mine at that moment! Later they are often glad to tell me about the conversations that they were having with their deceased relatives when I interrupted them.

In my mind there is a profound difference in the recollections of a person who has been hallucinating and one who has been conversing with deceased relatives.

A special thanks to Dr. Pam Kircher, a hospice doctor and was a member of the IANDS board of directors.
Ether notoriously can cause a spinning feeling which can be nauseating. This ether experience can be perceived as a tunnel. Usually the ether 'tunnel' experience is different from the tunnel experience of NDEs where there is no 'vertigo' sensation. Another distinguishing feature is that the NDE tunnel experience almost always is a highly lucid experience with full conscious alertness. Ether 'tunnels' are just before you go to sleep, and would not be expected to be lucid.

A special thanks to Dr. Jeffrey Long, a radiation oncology doctor, former member of the IANDS board of directors.
The psychiatric syndrome of autoscopy is the characteristic "doppelganger" of literature. In classical autoscopy, the person's consciousness remains in his or her physical body, and the person sees a "double" of him- or herself, which usually imitates all the actions of the physical body. Most typically, the autoscopic "double" is hazy, colorless, and transparent, and only includes the face and shoulders, rather than the whole body. The "double" may move toward or away from the physical body, and the person having the autoscopic vision is usually quite sad.

By contrast, in the NDE, the person's consciousness is not in his or her physical body, but is rather in the "double." The person sees his or her own physical body from the point of view of the "double," and the physical body is usually motionless, while the person moves about in the double. The vision of the physical body appears as the whole body, and appears real and lifelike. Sadness is quite rare in NDEs.

A special thanks to Dr. Bruce Greyson, one of the founding fathers of NDE research. Bonner-Lowry Professor of Personality Studies, Department of Psychiatric Medicine, University of Virginia Health System
Melvin Morse published 3 articles in the AMA’s pediatric journal as a result of his studies. The scientists and physicians who reviewed his protocol were very complimentary about research design and scientific validity of the results. Closer to the Light, Learning from the Near-Death Experiences of Children, Melvin Morse M.D., with Paul Perry, Ballantine Books 1991, Pg 49 . His findings from his carefully designed research eliminated the theory that NDEs are the result of drugs or sleep deprivation or that they are merely bad dreams or the subconscious awareness of surgery. Id. at pg 46.
The van Lommel study cited in the Lancet, can be cited for major NDE scientific findings, the largest being that NDEs are not medically explicable. pg. 2039. Van Lommel proved under rigid methodology that the occurrence of the NDE was not associated with “duration of cardiac arrest or unconsciousness, medication, or fear of death prior to the cardiac arrest.” Near Death Experience In Survivors of Cardiac Arrest: A Prospective Study in the Netherlands, Pim van Lommel, et al, THE LANCET • Vol 358 • December 15, 2001.

Given the similarity in physiological make-up of the sample population, one would expect that most of the 344 patients should experience an NDE. pg. 2039 This would take into account the skeptic argument of cerebral anoxia (dying brain cells). However, that is not the case. The findings were that 18% of the 344 cardiac arrest patients had an NDE, with 12% of the 18% reporting a “core experience.” Id. Therefore, NDE is not correlated with physiological causes of death. However, the study did find that age might play a factor in the occurrence of NDEs in that younger experiencers were more likely to have an NDE and more likely to have a core experience. Id. at 2043. Near Death Experience In Survivors of Cardiac Arrest: A Prospective Study in the Netherlands, Pim van Lommel, et al, THE LANCET • Vol 358 • December 15, 2001.

The same argument pertaining to physiological make-up could be made for those in the sample population who were psychologically afraid of death right before the cardiac arrest. However, there was no difference between those who were afraid and reported an NDE as opposed to those who were afraid and did not report an NDE. Id. at 2039. Therefore, NDE doesn’t appear to be caused by emotional make-up such as fear. Near Death Experience In Survivors of Cardiac Arrest: A Prospective Study in the Netherlands, Pim van Lommel, et al, THE LANCET • Vol 358 • December 15, 2001.

ANOTHER STUDY The children in Morse's study were also hypoxic, had acid-based balance disturbances, and had high CO2 levels, and every combination you could imagine. Yet they had nothing like an NDE. Closer to the Light, Learning from the Near-Death Experiences of Children, Melvin Morse M.D., with Paul Perry, Ballantine Books 1991 Pg 48
But the truth is that nobody knows when the NDEs reported by these patients occurred. Was it really during the period of flat EEG or might they have occurred as the patients rapidly entered or gradually recovered from that state? THE LANCET * Vol 358 * December 15, 2001 COMMENTARY p. 2010

This is perhaps one of the more ludicrous skeptical arguments. All one has to do is to read the experiences on the website. Notice that many describe the out of body part of the experience. It is hard to believe that a person can describe events (many times in the operating room) that occur after death. For instance, we had one experiencer talk of floating down the hall and hearing word for word what the nurses were saying about her death. We also have several reports of experiencers reporting word for word how relatives reacted to news of their death. 
Although, van Lommel could not find any medically explicable explanation for why NDEs occur, he did acknowledge that the neurological processes had to play a part in the NDE, noting similarities between various other phenomena such as electrical stimulation of the temporal lobe of the brain. Id. at 2044. However, he also commented on the fragmented and randomness of the memories derived by these other mechanisms. Id. Only the NDE had clear recall in a sequential order as evidenced by the life review. Near Death Experience In Survivors of Cardiac Arrest: A Prospective Study in the Netherlands, Pim van Lommel, et al, THE LANCET • Vol 358 • December 15, 2001, 2044.

The commentary in the Lancet talks of NDEs being the result of false memories. Interestingly, if this were true, then this rationale could not explain why the study found that people could recall their NDE exactly over the span of a 2-year and an 8-year period. Id. at 2041. a misfiring brain after death could not explain the perfect memory recall and the sequential occurrence of events.
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Donec sit amet eros. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Mauris fermentum dictum magna. Sed laoreet aliquam leo. Ut tellus dolor, dapibus eget, elementum vel, cursus eleifend, elit. Aenean auctor wisi et urna.
Donec sit amet eros. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Mauris fermentum dictum magna. Sed laoreet aliquam leo. Ut tellus dolor, dapibus eget, elementum vel, cursus eleifend, elit. Aenean auctor wisi et.
Donec sit amet eros. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Mauris fermentum dictum magna. Sed laoreet aliquam leo. Ut tellus dolor, dapibus eget, elementum vel, cursus eleifend, elit. Aenean auctor wisi et.
Donec sit amet eros. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Mauris fermentum dictum magna. Sed laoreet aliquam leo. Ut tellus dolor, dapibus eget, elementum vel, cursus eleifend, elit. Aenean auctor wisi et.
Donec sit amet eros. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Mauris fermentum dictum magna. Sed laoreet aliquam leo. Ut tellus dolor, dapibus eget, elementum vel, cursus eleifend, elit. Aenean auctor wisi et urna.
Donec sit amet eros. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Mauris fermentum dictum magna. Sed laoreet aliquam leo. Ut tellus dolor, dapibus eget, elementum vel, cursus eleifend, elit. Aenean auctor wisi et.
Donec sit amet eros. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Mauris fermentum dictum magna. Sed laoreet aliquam leo. Ut tellus dolor, dapibus eget, elementum vel, cursus eleifend, elit. Aenean auctor wisi et.
Donec sit amet eros. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Mauris fermentum dictum magna. Sed laoreet aliquam leo. Ut tellus dolor, dapibus eget, elementum vel, cursus eleifend, elit. Aenean auctor wisi et.