Based on what people who’ve had near-death experiences, scientists have tried to decipher what happens to our minds.
We’ve all heard the story of people remaining conscious seconds after being beheaded, right? All this started at the very time when beheading was the top execution method during the French Revolution when the guillotine was invented. People who witnessed these events were convinced that after the blade chopped the head, their eyes still moved as if they were conscious of what’s just happened to them. This theory remained a fact until the early twentieth century when a French physician by the name of Dr. Gabriel Beaurieux wrote a whole study after witnessing the beheading of a criminal, ensuring that his eyes still presented movement for some seconds afterward. Now, modern studies have suggested that more than being a matter of them being still conscious this is due to the body’s natural reflexes. Yet, understanding what happens to our brain after death continues to captivate scientists who wish to unveil this mystery.
To start with, we must mention the fact that it is really impossible to study this formally since we can’t really know what a person experiences when dying until that time comes to us. For that matter, those who study this phenomenon have had to focus on people who have come back from the brink of death, in other words, those who have experienced near-death experiences. Just as the tale of the beheading, the idea of one seeing a light at the end of the tunnel has been taken by many religions as the light guiding us to our afterlife. Now, many who have had near-death experiences claim to have seen this light which has interested many scientists of why this happens and what it means. Is the brain still awake and conscious when we’re shutting down or does that mean that even when our bodies are dying our soul still exists as these religions claim?
I’m more inclined to believe the first option since it offers more logic to me. However, studies claim that the idea of our soul exiting our body, leaving aside the religious implications, could be explained in scientific terms. According to a study made by neurologist Dr. Cameron Shaw, when we die our brain stays awake for about thirty seconds that can be divided into 10-sec lapses each. During the first two lapses, we lose our most primal brain features like the sense of self, humor, and our ability to think consciously. It is during this lapse where we could actually see these phenomena like out-of-body experiences or seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. During the last ten seconds of our brain’s life, is when we lose our human functions or what differs us from other species, like our conscious memories or our language knowledge since it’s when the oxygen levels start to shut drastically. Now, what does this imply? That yes, there’s a time lapse after our body dies that our brain is still functioning, but is it consciousness what we experience?