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Near-Death Experiences Explained

October 8, 2011

Art by Gemi

For instance, the feeling of being dead is not limited to near-death experiences—patients with Cotard or “walking corpse” syndrome hold the delusional belief that they are deceased. This disorder has occurred following trauma, such as during advanced stages of typhoid and multiple sclerosis, and has been linked with brain regions such as the parietal cortex and the prefrontal cortex.

Out-of-body experiences are also now known to be common during interrupted sleep patterns that immediately precede sleeping or waking.

And when it comes to the common experience of reliving moments from one’s life, one culprit might be the locus coeruleus, a midbrain region that releases noradrenaline, a stress hormone one would expect to be released in high levels during trauma. The locus coeruleus is highly connected with brain regions that mediate emotion and memory, such as the amygdala and hypothalamus.

In addition, research now shows that a number of medicinal and recreational drugs can mirror the euphoria often felt in near-death experiences, such as the anesthetic ketamine, which can also trigger out-of-body experiences and hallucinations.

Altogether, scientific evidence suggests that all features of the near-death experience have some basis in normal brain function gone awry.

Source: Scientific American

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