For many, the greatest mystery in life is what happens after death: what, if nothing else, awaits after we take our last breath? Others, on the other hand, are more interested in the more immediate practical aspects.
How does the dying process feel? Is there any consciousness that remains in the moments between this world and the one to come next? Is it like the experience of falling asleep, a slow drift into nothingness, or are we aware that we are moving away from this mortal coil?
“Dying is a unique experience for the individual and their loved ones,” explains Dr. Patrick Steele, a palliative care specialist at Victoria’s Palliative Care South East.
“There is much more than physiological changes that contribute to the experience of death.
For example, a person’s personality, their burden of disease, the support of family and friends, the duration of their terminal illness and their spirituality. “
There are, however, some physiological changes that occur across the board.
“Regular breathing patterns can change,” he continues, “sometimes it can be faster than normal and other times slower. In the last few days there may be periods when there are long intervals between breaths. Breathing can get noisy at the end of the breath. life. This is an accumulation of waste products / secretions of the body. It is often more distressing to those who listen than to the individual who is dying. “
A study published earlier this year in Frontiers in the neuroscience of aging found that the brain can remain active during and possibly even after the moment of death.
Doctors were conducting continuous electroencephalography (EEG) on a patient who had developed epilepsy when the patient had a heart attack and died in the process.
It allowed them to track the activity of a human brain during death, and they discovered rhythms of activity similar to memory retrieval, dreaming, meditation, and conscious perception.
This, speculated the study’s organizer, Dr. Ajmal Zemmar, a neurosurgeon at the University of Louisville, could mean that the idea that our lives “whiz past our eyes” as we die, has value.
“As a neurosurgeon, I sometimes deal with leaks. It is indescribably difficult to break the news of the death to family members in need, ”he told the Frontier News blog.
“Something we could learn from this research is: even if our loved ones have their eyes closed and are ready to let us rest, their brains could relive some of the best moments they have experienced in their lives.”
Originally published as Our Brains Can “Relive Happy Memories” as We Die