Tag Archive: Near-death experiences


Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

Blanco, S., Sambin, M., & Palmieri, A. (2017). Meaning making after a near-death experience: The relevance of intrapsychic and interpersonal dynamics. Death Studies, 27, 1-12.

This study aims to investigate the processes used by individuals to integrate a near-death experience (NDE) and to discuss the use of a meaning-making component to help people who have had such experiences. A psychotherapist interviewed six individuals who reported having had a NDE. Transcripts of the interviews were coded using an interpretative phenomenological analysis. The authors identified intrapsychic and interpersonal dynamics implicated in the individuals’ meaning-making processes, and the problems encountered during their integration of the experience. Meaning-based approaches are a feasible theoretical framework for shedding light on the NDE and providing support for people who have lived through them.

Chandradasa, M., Wijesinghe, C., Kuruppuarachchi, K. A. L. A., & Perera, M. (2017). Near-death experiences in a multi-religious hospital population in Sri Lanka. Journal of Religion and Health, 1-17.

Near-death experiences (NDEs) are a wide range of experiences that occur in association with impending death. There are no published studies on NDEs in general hospital populations, and studies have been mainly conducted on critically ill patients. We assessed the prevalence of NDEs and its associations in a multi-religious population in a general hospital in Sri Lanka. A randomised sample of patients admitted to the Colombo North Teaching Hospital was assessed using the Greyson NDE scale and clinical assessment. Out of total 826 participants, NDEs were described by 3%. Compared to the NDE-negative participants, the NDE-positive group had a significantly higher mean for age and a ratio of men. Women reported deeper NDEs. Patients of theistic religions (Christianity, Islam and Hinduism) reported significantly more NDEs compared to patients from the non-theistic religious group (Buddhism). NDE-positive patient group had significantly higher reporting of a feeling ‘that they are about to die’, the presence of loss of consciousness and a higher percentage of internal medical patients. This is the first time that NDEs are assessed in a general hospital population and NDEs being reported from Sri Lanka. We also note for the first time that persons with theistic religious beliefs reported more NDEs than those with non-theistic religious beliefs. Medical professionals need to be aware of these phenomena to be able to give an empathic hearing to patients who have NDE.

Kinsella, M. (2017). Near-death experiences and networked spirituality: The emergence of an afterlife movement. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 85, 168–198.

Near-death experiences (NDEs) were first introduced to the public in 1975. Shortly thereafter, an entire field of near-death studies emerged that began outlining an NDE-based spirituality. This spirituality draws heavily upon an aspect of NDEs known as the “life review,” which involves the reliving or witnessing of significant autobiographical events, either from one’s own perspective or that of others. Near-death studies have contributed to the rise of what I have termed an “afterlife movement”: a loosely organized collective utilizing NDE narratives and practices modeled after the life review to transform behaviors and attitudes toward death, dying, and end-of-life care. By presenting findings from the first ethnography ever to be conducted on the sharing and study of NDE reports in group settings, this article describes this growing movement at the local level.

Lake, J. (2017). The evolution of a predisposition for the near-death experience: implications for non-local consciousness. Journal of Nonlocality, 5.

Near-death experiences (NDE) raise important questions about the nature of human consciousness, the relationship between brain function and consciousness, the perceptual information that is available to consciousness in moments before death, the role of physical and biological mechanisms associated with altered states of consciousness, and relationships between consciousness, space-time and phenomenal reality. Challenges posed by efforts to define the NDE, claims of anomalous experiences associated with NDEs, the problem of “timing” of NDEs with respect to brain function, recent findings from neuroscience are reviewed, along with emerging evidence for quantum models of consciousness that may help elucidate the nature of NDEs.

Lawrence, M. (2017). Near-death and other transpersonal experiences occurring during catastrophic events. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care, 34, 486-492.

The purpose of this article is to describe examples of near-death and other transpersonal experiences occurring during catastrophic events like floods, wars, bombings, and death camps. To date, researchers have limited their investigations of these transpersonal events to those occurring to seriously ill patients in hospitals, those dying from terminal illnesses, or to individuals experiencing a period of grief after the death of a loved one. Missing is awareness by first responders and emergency healthcare professionals about these transpersonal experiences and what to say to the individuals who have them. Some responders experience not only deaths of the victims they assist, but also deaths of their colleagues. Information about these transpersonal experiences can also be of comfort to them. The examples in this article include a near-death experience during the Vietnam War, an out-of-body experience after a bomb explosion during the Iraq War, a near-death visit to a woman imprisoned at Auschwitz, and two after-death communications, one from a person killed in Auschwitz and another from a soldier during World War I. Also included are interviews with two New York City policemen who were September 11, 2001 responders. It is hoped the information will provide knowledge of these experiences to those who care for those near death, or dying, or grieving because of catastrophic events, and encourage researchers to further investigate these experiences during disasters.

Martial, C., Charland-Verville, V., Cassol, H., Didone, V., Van der Linden, M., & Laureys, S. (2017). Intensity and memory characteristics of near-death experiences. Consciousness and Cognition, S1053-8100(16)30380-4. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2017.06.018.

Memories of Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) seem to be very detailed and stable over time. At present, there is still no satisfactory explanation for the NDEs’ rich phenomenology. Here we compared phenomenological characteristics of NDE memories with the reported experience’s intensity. We included 152 individuals with a self-reported “classical” NDE (i.e. occurring in life-threatening conditions). All participants completed a mailed questionnaire that included a measure of phenomenological characteristics of memories (the Memory Characteristics Questionnaire; MCQ) and a measure of NDE’s intensity (the Greyson NDE scale). Greyson NDE scale total score was positively correlated with MCQ total score, suggesting that participants who described more intense NDEs also reported more phenomenological memory characteristics of NDE. Using MCQ items, our study also showed that NDE’s intensity is associated in particular with sensory details, personal importance and reactivation frequency variables.

Martial C, Cassol H, Antonopoulos G, Charlier T, Heros J, Donneau A-F, Charland-Verville V and Laureys S (2017) Temporality of features in near-death experience narratives. Frontiers of Human Neuroscences, 11:311. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00311

Background: After an occurrence of a Near-Death Experience (NDE), Near-Death Experiencers (NDErs) usually report extremely rich and detailed narratives. Phenomenologically, a NDE can be described as a set of distinguishable features. Some authors have proposed regular patterns of NDEs, however, the actual temporality sequence of NDE core features remains a little explored area. Objectives: The aim of the present study was to investigate the frequency distribution of these features (globally and according to the position of features in narratives) as well as the most frequently reported temporality sequences of features. Methods: We collected 154 French freely expressed written NDE narratives (i.e., Greyson NDE scale total score ≥ 7/32). A text analysis was conducted on all narratives in order to infer temporal ordering and frequency distribution of NDE features. Results: Our analyses highlighted the following most frequently reported sequence of consecutive NDE features: Out-of-Body Experience, Experiencing a tunnel, Seeing a bright light, Feeling of peace. Yet, this sequence was encountered in a very limited number of NDErs. Conclusion: These findings may suggest that NDEs temporality sequences can vary across NDErs. Exploring associations and relationships among features encountered during NDEs may complete the rigorous definition and scientific comprehension of the phenomenon.

Martial, C., Charland-Verville, V., Dehon, H., & Laureys, S. (2017). False memory susceptibility in coma survivors with and without a near-death experience. Psychological Research, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00426-017-0855-9

It has been postulated that memories of near-death experiences (NDEs) could be (at least in part) reconstructions based on experiencers’ (NDErs) previous knowledge and could be built as a result of the individual’s attempt to interpret the confusing experience. From the point of view of the experiencer, NDE memories are perceived as being unrivalled memories due to its associated rich phenomenology. However, the scientific literature devoted to the cognitive functioning of NDErs in general, and their memory performance in particular, is rather limited. This study examined NDErs’ susceptibility to false memories using the Deese–Roediger–McDermott (DRM) paradigm. We included 20 NDErs who reported having had their experience in the context of a life-threatening event (Greyson NDE scale total score ≥7/32) and 20 volunteers (matched for age, gender, education level, and time since brain insult) who reported a life-threatening event but without a NDE. Both groups were presented with DRM lists for a recall task during which they were asked to assign “Remember/Know/Guess” judgements to any recalled response. In addition, they were later asked to complete a post-recall test designed to obtain estimates of activation and monitoring of critical lures. Results demonstrated that NDErs and volunteers were equally likely to produce false memories, but that NDErs recalled them more frequently associated with compelling illusory recollection. Of particular interest, analyses of activation and monitoring estimates suggest that NDErs and volunteers groups were equally likely to think of critical lures, but source monitoring was less successful in NDErs compared to volunteers.

Moore, L., & Greyson, B. (2017). Characteristics of memories for near-death experiences. Consciousness and Cognition, 51, 116–124.

Near-death experiences are vivid, life-changing experiences occurring to people who come close to death. Because some of their features, such as enhanced cognition despite compromised brain function, challenge our understanding of the mind-brain relationship, the question arises whether near-death experiences are imagined rather than real events. We administered the Memory Characteristics Questionnaire to 122 survivors of a close brush with death who reported near-death experiences. Participants completed Memory Characteristics Questionnaires for three different memories: that of their near-death experience, that of a real event around the same time, and that of an event they had imagined around the same time. The Memory Characteristics Questionnaire score was higher for the memory of the near-death experience than for that of the real event, which in turn was higher than that of the imagined event. These data suggest that memories of near-death experiences are recalled as ‘‘realer” than real events or imagined events.

Royse, D., & Badger, K. (2017). Near-death experiences, posttraumatic growth, and life satisfaction among burn survivors. Social Work in Health Care, 56, 155-168.

Survivors of large burns may face positive and negative psychological after-effects from close-to-death injuries. This study is the first to examine their near-death experiences (NDEs) and posttraumatic growth (PTG) and life satisfaction afterwards. With an available sample of 92 burn survivors, half met the criteria for an NDE using an objective scale. Those who indicated religion was a source of strength and comfort had high scores on life satisfaction, PTG, and the NDE Scale. Individuals with larger burns reported greater PTG than those with smaller total body surface area burned (TBSA). There were no significant differences on life satisfaction, PTG, or NDEs when examined by gender or years since the burn injury. Elements of the NDE most frequently reported were: An altered sense of time, a sense of being out of the physical body, a feeling of peace, vivid sensations, and sense of being in an “other worldly” environment. Social workers and other health providers need to be comfortable helping burn survivors discuss any NDEs and process these through survivors’ spirituality and religious belief systems as they recover.

Tassell-Matamua, N., & Lindsay, N., Bennett, S., Valentine, H., & Pahina, J. (2017). Does learning about near-death experiences promote psycho-spiritual benefits in those who have not had a near-death experience? Journal of Spirituality and mental Health, 19, 95-115.

Research has revealed a consistent pattern of positive aftereffects in those who report a near-death experience [NDE]. Beneficial outcomes are also possible for those who have not had a NDE, but instead learn about them, although much of this research has been conducted on therapeutic populations. Using a sample of 143 participants randomly assigned to either an intervention or non-intervention group, we investigated whether learning about NDEs generated the same psycho-spiritual benefits having a NDE does. Results revealed significant changes in appreciation for life, spirituality, and appreciation for death, in the intervention group after learning about NDEs.

Advertisements

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center (http://rhine.org)

Kellehear NDE bookNear-death experiences is a growing area of research and speculation, particularly as it relates to its implications about consciousness. Many publications on the subject have appeared in recent years. This includes, among several titles,  Ornella Corazza’s Near-Death Experiences: Exploring the Mind-Body Connection (New York: Routledge, 2008), Allan Kellehear’s Experiences Near Death: Beyond Medicine and Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), Mahendra Perera, Karuppiah Jagadheesan, and Anthony Peake (eds.), Making Sense of Near-Death Experiences: A Handbook for Clinicians (London: Jessica Kingsley, 2012), Sam Parnia’s (with Josh Young), Erasing Death: The Science that is Rewriting the Boundaries Between Life and Death (New York: HarperOne, 2013), and Pim van Lommel’s Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience (New York : HarperOne, 2010).

Perera Making Sense of Near-Death Experiences

Van Lommel Consciousness Beyond Life

But perhaps the most important publication, in terms of showing the existence of an organized NDE research field (even if it is a small specialty), and presenting comprehensive summaries of work done in various areas, is Janice Miner Holden, Bruce Greyson, and Debbie James’s (eds.), The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2009).

Holden Handbbok 2

More important than books—at least when it comes to penetrate academia and science in general—are the many articles on the topic which have appeared in refereed scientific and scholarly journals. Some examples of these publications, coming from 2000, are such varied journals as Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Art Therapy, Critical Care, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, General Hospital Psychiatry, Indian Journal of Anesthesia, International Journal of Engineering Science and Technology, Journal of Cosmology, Lancet, NeuroQuantology, Omega, Professional School Counseling, Psychological Science, Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, Qualitative Research in Psychology, Resuscitation, Review of General Psychology, and Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

This trend continues, as seen in the following astracts of articles published in journals during 2013.

Khanna, S., & Greyson, B. (2013). Near-Death Experiences and Spiritual Well-Being. Journal of Religion and Health, Apr 30. [Epub ahead of print]. First author’s email: sk7sq@virginia.edu

Abstract

People who have near-death experiences often report a subsequently increased sense of spirituality and a connection with their inner self and the world around them. In this study, we examined spiritual well-being, using Paloutzian and Ellison’s Spiritual Well-Being Scale, among 224 persons who had come close to death. Participants who reported having near-death experiences reported greater spiritual well-being than those who did not, and depth of spiritual well-being was positively correlated with depth of near-death experience. We discussed the implications of these findings in light of other reported aftereffects of near-death experiences and of spiritual well-being among other populations.

****

Dr. Marie Thonnard

Dr. Marie Thonnard

Thonnard M, Charland-Verville V, Brédart S, Dehon H, Ledoux D, Laureys S, Vanhaudenhuyse A. (2013). Characteristics of near-death experiences memories as compared to real and imagined events memories. PlosOne, 8(3). Available online: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3609762/pdf/pone.0057620.pdf

Abstract

Since the dawn of time, near-death experiences (NDEs) have intrigued and, nowadays, are still not fully explained. Since reports of NDEs are proposed to be imagined events, and since memories of imagined events have, on average, fewer phenomenological characteristics than real events memories, we here compared phenomenological characteristics of NDEs reports with memories of imagined and real events. We included three groups of coma survivors (8 patients with NDE as defined by the Greyson NDE scale, 6 patients without NDE but with memories of their coma, 7 patients without memories of their coma) and a group of 18 age-matched healthy volunteers. Five types of memories were assessed using Memory Characteristics Questionnaire (MCQ–Johnson et al., 1988): target memories (NDE for NDE memory group, coma memory for coma memory group, and first childhood memory for no memory and control groups), old and recent real event memories and old and recent imagined event memories. Since NDEs are known to have high emotional content, participants were requested to choose the most emotionally salient memories for both real and imagined recent and old event memories. Results showed that, in NDE memories group, NDE memories have more characteristics than memories of imagined and real events (p<0.02). NDE memories contain more self-referential and emotional information and have better clarity than memories of coma (all ps<0.02). The present study showed that NDE memories contained more characteristics than real event memories and coma memories. Thus, this suggests that they cannot be considered as imagined event memories. On the contrary, their physiological origins could lead them to be really perceived although not lived in the reality. Further work is needed to better understand this phenomenon.

****

Hou, Y., Huang, Q., Prakash, R., Chaudhury, S. (2013). Infrequent near death experiences in severe brain injury survivors – A quantitative and qualitative study. Annals if Indian Academy of neurology, 16, 75-81. Available here: http://www.annalsofian.org/article.asp?issn=0972-2327;year=2013;volume=16;issue=1;spage=75;epage=81;aulast=Hou

Abstract

Background: Near death experiences (NDE) are receiving increasing attention by the scientific community because not only do they provide a glimpse of the complexity of the mind-brain interactions in ‘near-death’ circumstances but also because they have significant and long lasting effects on various psychological aspects of the survivors. The over-all incidence-reports of NDEs in literature have varied widely from a modest Figure of 10% to around 35%, even up to an incredible Figure of 72% in persons who have faced close brush with death. Somewhat similar to this range of difference in incidences are the differences prevalent in the opinions that theorists and researchers harbor around the world for explaining this phenomena. None the less, objective evidences have supported physiological theories the most. A wide range of physiological processes have been targeted for explaining NDEs. These include cerebral anoxia, chemical alterations like hypercapnia, presence of endorphins, ketamine, and serotonin, or abnormal activity of the temporal lobe or the limbic system. In spite of the fact that the physiological theories of NDEs have revolved around the derangements in brain, no study till date has taken up the task of evaluating the experiences of near-death in patients where specific injury has been to brain. Most of them have evaluated NDEs in cardiac-arrest patients. Post-traumatic coma is one such state regarding which the literature seriously lacks any information related to NDEs. Patients recollecting any memory of their post-traumatic coma are valuable assets for NDE researchers and needs special attention. Materials and Methods: Our present study was aimed at collecting this valuable information from survivors of severe head injury after a prolonged coma. The study was conducted in the head injury department of Guangdong 999 Brain hospital, Guangzhou, China. Patients included in the study were the ones Recovered from the posttraumatic coma following a severe head injury. A total of 86 patients were chosen. Near death experience scale (NDES) score of 7 or more was used as the criteria of screening NDE experiences. After identifying such individuals, the Prakash-modification of the Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to interview and record the data for qualitative analysis. Results: We found that contrary to earlier incidence reports, NDEs in post head injury patients were markedly low. Only 3 out of 86 of the patients recruited had a clear and confident experience of NDE. We conducted a qualitative study to explore further into these experiences. IPA of these 3 patients revealed four master themes: 1. Unique light visions 2. Intense feelings of astonishment, pleasure, and fear 3. The sense of helplessness 4. Supernatural but rationality of experience. Conclusion: NDE is uncommon in head-injury cases as compared to other near-death conditions. But the persons experiencing it have immense impacts on their belief systems and emotions. This experience should be further explored by studies of larger samples.

****

Rauh, T. (2013). Near-death experiences: A potential problem for physicalism. Compos Mentis, 1, 36-44. Available here: http://www.cognethic.org/cm/cmv1i1.pdf#page=39

Abstract

Near-death experiences have been known to exist for centuries, yet their philosophical significance remains unknown. An overview of the research of near-death experiences is compiled and the various cognitive, transcendental, affective, and paranormal components of near-death experiences are explored. Included in these are accounts of people meeting deceased relatives, having out-of-body experiences, sensations of tranquility, and believing one has traveled to another realm. The verifiability of these experiences are explored, particularly the account of a woman who had an out-of-body experience during a brain surgery in which her brainwaves and most other bodily functions were measured at zero. It is then explored what this may mean for physicalist frameworks of mind. It is proposed that if the out-of-body experiences are indeed real, then problems for physicalism arise given our current neurological paradigms. How exactly can the mind be reduced to physical states if the physical body is not functioning? Anticipated replies from physicalists are then given including theoretical hallucinogenic neurotransmitters, abnormal oxygen levels, and impaired functioning of the temporo-parietal junction in the brain. It is then concluded that each explanation is not adequate to explain every facet of the near-death experience, but they may be capable of doing so in the future with a more complete neuroscience. Regardless of what it may mean for physicalism, near-death experiences should be further researched within the confines of philosophy due to their possible implications and potential questions regarding the nature of consciousness.

****

Dr. Pim van Lommel

Dr. Pim van Lommel

 van lommel, P. (2013). Non-local consciousness: A concept based on scientific research on near-death experiences during cardiac arrest. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 20, 7-48.

Abstract

In this article a concept of non-local consciousness will be described, based on recent scientific research on near-death experiences (NDEs). Since the publication of several prospective studies on NDEs in survivors of cardiac arrest, with strikingly similar results and conclusions, the phenomenon of the NDE can no longer be scientifically ignored. In the last thirty years several theories have been proposed to explain an NDE. The challenge to find a common explanation for the cause and content of an NDE is complicated by the fact that an NDE can be experienced during various circumstances, such as severe injury of the brain as in cardiac arrest to conditions when the brain seems to function normally. The NDE is an authentic experience which cannot be simply reduced to imagination, fear of death, hallucination, psychosis, the use of drugs, or oxygen deficiency. Patients appear to be permanently changed by an NDE during a cardiac arrest of only some minutes duration. According to these aforementioned studies, the current materialistic view of the relationship between consciousness and the brain as held by most physicians, philosophers, and psychologists is too restricted for a proper understanding of this phenomenon. There are good reasons to assume that our consciousness does not always coincide with the functioning of our brain: enhanced or non-local consciousness can sometimes be experienced separately from the body.