Lucid Dying: Patients Recall Death Experiences During CPR

Summary: 1 in 5 people who receive CPR report lucid experiences of death while they are seemingly unconscious and on the brink of death. The lucid experiences appear to be different from hallucinations, dreams, illusions, and delusions. Researchers found during these experiences the brain has heightened activity and markers for lucidity, suggesting the human sense of self, like other biological functions, may not completely stop around the time of death.

Source: NYU Langone

One in five people who survive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) after cardiac arrest may describe lucid experiences of death that occurred while they were seemingly unconscious and on the brink of death, a new study shows.

Led by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and elsewhere, the study involved 567 men and women whose hearts stopped beating while hospitalized and who received CPR between May 2017 and March 2020 in the United States and United Kingdom. Despite immediate treatment, fewer than 10% recovered sufficiently to be discharged from hospital.

Survivors reported having unique lucid experiences, including a perception of separation from the body, observing events without pain or distress, and a meaningful evaluation of life, including of their actions, intentions and thoughts toward others. The researchers found these experiences of death to be different from hallucinations, delusions, illusions, dreams or CPR-induced consciousness.

The work also included tests for hidden brain activity. A key finding was the discovery of spikes of brain activity, including so-called gamma, delta, theta, alpha and beta waves up to an hour into CPR. Some of these brain waves normally occur when people are conscious and performing higher mental functions, including thinking, memory retrieval, and conscious perception.

“These recalled experiences and brain wave changes may be the first signs of the so-called near-death experience, and we have captured them for the first time in a large study,” says Sam Parnia, MD, PhD, the lead study investigator and an intensive care physician, who is also an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at NYU Langone Health, as well as the organization’s director of critical care and resuscitation research.

“Our results offer evidence that while on the brink of death and in a coma, people undergo a unique inner conscious experience, including awareness without distress.”

Identifying measureable electrical signs of lucid and heightened brain activity, together with similar stories of recalled death experiences, suggests that the human sense of self and consciousness, much like other biological body functions, may not stop completely around the time of death, adds Parnia.

“These lucid experiences cannot be considered a trick of a disordered or dying brain, but rather a unique human experience that emerges on the brink death,” says Parnia.

As the brain is shutting down, many of its natural braking systems are released. Known as disinhibition, this provides access to the depths of a person’s consciousness, including stored memories, thoughts from early childhood to death, and other aspects of reality.

While no one knows the evolutionary purpose of this phenomenon, it clearly reveals “intriguing questions about human consciousness, even at death,” says Parnia. 

The study authors conclude that although studies to date have not been able to absolutely prove the reality or meaning of patients’ experiences and claims of awareness in relation to death, it has been impossible to disclaim them either. They say recalled experience surrounding death now merits further genuine empirical investigation without prejudice.

The researchers found these experiences of death to be different from hallucinations, delusions, illusions, dreams or CPR-induced consciousness. Image is in the public domain

Researchers plan to present their study findings at a resuscitation science symposium that is part of the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2022 taking place in Chicago on Nov. 6.

Some 25 hospitals in the U.S. and U.K. participated in the study, called AWARE II. Only hospitalized patients were enrolled to standardize the CPR and resuscitation methods used after cardiac arrest, as well as the recordings made of brain activity. Additional testimonies from 126 community survivors of cardiac arrest with self-reported memories were also examined in this study to provide greater understanding of the themes related to the recalled experience of death. 

Parnia says further research is needed to more precisely define biomarkers of what is considered to be clinical consciousness, the human recalled experience of death, and to monitor the long-term psychological effects of resuscitation after cardiac arrest.

Funding: Funding and support for the study was provided by NYU Langone, The John Templeton Foundation, and the Resuscitation Council (UK) and National Institutes for Health Research in the U.K.

Besides Parnia, other NYU Langone study investigators are Tara Keshavarz Shirazi, BA; Caitlin O’Neill, MPH; Emma Roellke, MD; Amanda Mengotta, MD; Thaddeus Tarpey, PhD; Elise Huppert, MD; Ian Jaffe, BS; Anelly Gonzales, MS; Jing Xu, MS; and Emmeline Koopman, MS. Other study investigators are Deepak Pradhan, MD, at Bellevue Hospital in New York City; Jignesh Patel, MD; Linh Tran, MD; Niraj Sinha, MD; and Rebecca Spiegel, MD, at Stony Brook University in N.Y.; Shannon Findlay, MD, at the University of Iowa in Iowa City; Michael McBrine, MD, at Tufts University in Boston; Gavin Perkins, MD, at the University of Warwick in Coventry, U.K.; Alain Vuylsteke, MD, at Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Cambridge, U.K.; Benjamin Bloom, MD, at Barts Health NHS Trust in London, U.K.; Heather Jarman, RN, at St. George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in London; Hiu Nam Tong, MD, at Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust in King’s Lynn, U.K.; Louisa Chan, MD, at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Hampshire, U.K.; Michael Lyacker, MD, at Ohio State University in Columbus; Matthew Thomas, MD, at University Hospitals Bristol and Wexton NHS Foundation Trust in Bristol, U.K.; Veselin Velchev, MD, at St. Anna University in Sofia, Bulgaria; Charles Cairns, MD, at Drexel University in Phildelphia; Rahul Sharma, MD, at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City; Erik Kulstad, MD, at University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas; Elizabeth Scherer, MD, at University of Texas San Antonio; Terence O’Keeffe, MD, at Augusta University in Augusta, Ga.; Mahtab Foroozesh, MD, at Virginia Tech in Roanoke; Olumayowa Abe, MD, at New York-Presbyterian in New York City; Chinwe Ogedegbe, MD, at Hackensack University in Nutley, N.J.; Amira Girgis, MD, at Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Surrey, U.K.; and Charles Deakin, MD, at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust in Southampton, U.K.

About this neuroscience research news

Author: David March
Source: NYU Langone
Contact: David March – NYU Langone
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original Research: The findings will be presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions

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  1. God is very much real. And so is Satan. Doesn’t matter if you believe or not. Does not change the fact that when we die we go to one or the other. I could say I don’t believe in cancer. It doesnt exist. But yet we die from it by the masses. Its real. No matter what I believe to be it doesn’t change the fact that it’s real and exists. So when you die. Doesn’t matter if you believe it or not. You are going to one or the other. We are ETERNAL. We all live FOREVER. Where and how is up to us.

  2. I had a near death experience during an emergency cesarean section. I was hemorrhaging and watched my numbers go down on the monitors. Last number I saw was a blood pressure of 60/30. And then I felt I was floating up. I saw my body from a birdseye view. It felt very real. I thought ok, I’m dead, now what? What’s in it now for me? Do I stay floating here, or do I try to get to that faraway light? I was surrounded by complete blackness, except for that far-away light. I was at peace. This was it. Except I felt so bad for the baby that would never know his mother. But I knew my family would take good care of him. I really enjoyed the quiet and bliss and knew that I eventually need to get moving forward. And then I heard people screening my name. I was annoyed. They bothered me so much. They were pulling me down and the pressure of the pull hurt. I was angry. The screaming grew louder and I opened my eyes to see a team of doctors around me. They didn’t let me slip back under. I wasn’t able to talk about the experience until a year later. The doctor didn’t want to discuss it with me. I assumed she was scared of a lawsuit. 2 years later I reached out to a lawyer that said I have no basis to sue because I haven’t suffered any disabilities. Emotional pain from the trauma is not a disability. But I came to appreciate the lessons I learned. Life is such a valuable opportunity to do good. That’s all there is to life. Self-regret is hell and self-pride is heaven. That’s is really all that matters. I turned my life around. I’m constantly mindful to do acts of kindness. I’m more understanding and appreciative of others. I’m wishing everyone to gain this sense of clarity without a near death experience.

  3. I would like to know of people who have experienced this more than one time .it would be interesting to find out if this only happens one time only to someone

    1. I had two different NDE, a 3rd time I didn’t (technically the 2nd time, I could have). The 1st time it was more of a wormhole going through and fuzzy memories, I forget the word, but the feeling from the experience lingered without many actual memories. But on that 3rd and longest most vivid NDE I feel back into my body on the word, “REMEMBER” and I did. It was a long many things happened experience. The telepathic communication interested me, as others have experienced this as well. It was so instantaneous and each thought had a flood of possibilities enter into my consciousness that I could only wish to be this cognitive in my body. Never have nor do I expect to be able to, but life would surely be a breeze if one could think in such a manner all the time on earth.

  4. The article is too loose in its use of the word “death”. Without saying so, they are using cardiac arrest to mean death. The only meaningful definition of death is lack of brain activity & as such there can be no revival and recollection of the experience.

    The readership would have been better served if the study had defined this state with a new term, such as “cardiac arrest induced deep coma”. “Death” is too vague and has so much emotional response to its use that its use is better avoided.

    1. Hey Bob, How can you scientifically believe in the indefyability of a definition? From a human perspective, death is a physical closure. What if the consciousness survives this closure and can retreat its path back to the body and reignite the brain? How can you scientifically reject such a possibility?

  5. I overdosed on heroin and my heart an lungs stopped. The people around me panicked wondering what to do about the situation approximately for 5 minutes until one of them decided to start CPR on me. I remember floating up ward into the sky as it appeared to be evening time when this event took place early in the afternoon. I recall gazing out and seeing a plethora of stars and it was so peaceful. I was not afraid and I actually enjoyed this experience of floating out into space. Then I noticed one of the stars getting brighter and brighter and I began to gravitate in the direction of this star. It then looked like tunnel vision and all I could see was this bright light and then slowly it came into focus and what I saw was the fire department paramedics all around me as I was lying on the floor of the house where I overdosed asking me these questions “what year is it”? “Who’s the president”? At that very moment I realized that I was resuscitated by these guys. I have heard that people have reported to see a light in near death experiences and from my experience the light is here in this physical existence. A friend of mine who coded during a triple bypass surgery told me that he had the same experience except that he was in surgery when resuscitated. The spooky thing about it was that I was not afraid and still felt conscious of being alive in some unexplainable way but I was aware that it was not alive as I see it currently in this physical existence.

    1. What about using information from the Bible to see if it concurs with your discoveries you might even find help ? In the book

    2. I had a motorcycle crash in the early 80s and passed for about 7 minutes. I also found myself floating up, beyond the sky and out into a beautiful universe. I saw unimaginable galaxies and star formations. I was aware I had no physical body also. Then inexplicably a light brought me back (the exact opposite of the movies)… Seems we both had unfinished business. I can’t explain how, but I know for a fact it was as real as anything I’ve ever felt in life,vI didn’t want to come back and yet an now glad I did as I’ve had an odd (but beautiful) life.

  6. Seems like most of the resuscitated that recall the most all experienced a reunion. This seems also to me to be the most important part of the process. This life is for us to get over the illusion of our separateness from God and each other.

  7. There is no evolution of the human. Like we evolved from a rock ? Explain that ?
    We are created. There is a transition into the afterlife that is highly documented in religion, art and literature as well .
    Science hasn’t all the answers and I think that’s just fine.

    1. Who said we evolved from rocks. As evolution vs. creation. There’s no argument to be made. Evolution is re-creating creation. They are 1 in the same without which nothing could exist.
      As for what these experiences are at near death . What I believe is. We are but the sub conscious of consciousness. Our life ex0eriences at death are feed into a higher consciousness. Like neuron firing across a synapseso your life.
      In much the same you make decision based on you experiences. So does this higher energy out comes evolutiion

  8. When l was 6,or 7 gas fumes from a faulty heater encompassed our house.i saw myself floating out through the front door and into the sky. Something told me to go back and save my family. My dad performed mouth to mouth resuscitation on my younger brother. All of my family survived.

    1. It’s all real. God. Heaven. The domain of the devil as well. All real. Science defying miracles happen in this world usually ignored and represented by the media. Have a great life.

  9. I think it’s important that when we dive into near death experiences we examine it from a pool of people that are not the same religion race or culture to have a diverse amount of data

    1. I was hung in my garage has cpr revive me and in a coma for 6 days experiencing everything that is in the story you are writing would love to be in your study. Here in pueblo colo Erica rael although my experience is in a criminal investigation for attempted murder since I was hung

  10. They should do a c
    Resuscitation on me while I’m alive , so I can dig into the depth of my consciousness..I will love to experience that now..

    1. For further insight to this subject, I direct my fellow readers to the Bushwood Studies conducted by Carl SpackleR,HGK in 1988.

  11. While coming out of the anesthesia from a basic procedure, my body went into seizures due to the pain medication which forced them to put me into an induced coma.

    On day 5 of the coma, the staples they used let go inside of me, shredding my intestines. The sepsis became so bad that the fluid backed into my lungs and I drowned to death.

    While in the coma, believed during that event, I was suddenly standing on a street in my home town but everything was from the late 70’s.

    I noticed 2 shadowed figures across the road and the moves/floated? towards me.

    As they got closer to me, everything kind of fogged out. Not gone, but like looking through a fogged window..as they got next to me, a hand reached out to me. I wasn’t scared or nervous..it was perfectly ok. Idk how else to describe it.

    Instantly I knew the hand was my brother who passed in 1989. I didn’t speak but I put my hands up and said, “I have to go back”. The hand went down, then came back up and I saw his face also this time and realized the second shadow was my grandmother.

    I felt happy in a way, comforted for sure..not a shred of negativity or fear or anything like that.

    I put my hands up and said again, I have to go back.
    I felt my brothers warmth and smile of approval almost a kind of “proud of you” emotion.

    And poof. That was it. On the 10th day of the induced coma they began bringing me out of it and 2 days later is my first memory of being alive, when I felt I had to pee and I went to get up, realized I couldn’t walk, had a catheter and a huge gaping hole in my abdomen.

    For days, I laid awake, only when my older brother, mother or father were around in would pass out to sleep. They told me later that, when the staff would tell me I need to rest, I said I can’t, they’ll come back for me.

    Wasn’t a lucid anything. It was as real as my typing this message.

  12. We all know what it is. God is showing us all our good and bad or all of our bad to see if we’re worthy of a second chance or to see our place for judgment day. But what if that is our judgment day?? Say what you want. There is a God a creator of all existence. That’s why it’s so hard for scientist to discover everything.

    1. My mother suffered end stage dementia and could not talk. I was told that just before she died she spoke articulately about her life.

  13. I wished my doctor helped me understand my own personal experience with this matter. When people say, “their lives flashed before their eye” it’s 100% accurate because I actually experienced it.

    I recently survived a serious car accident, pneumonia, severe sepsis, 11 day coma, and when I woke up from my coma I caught Covid 19 during my hospitalization.

    The only thing my doctor said was I must had have a strong well to want to live…

  14. Cant science and spirituality be as one? That “experience” the lucidity… What if it’s our soul? Our inner being, our spirit, that’s awakening when we transition? DMT should be used in more clinical trials. If you haven’t tried it. You should. You’ll then maybe understand that we do in fact have a soul. Not godly with a heaven and hell because that’s just non sense. But a true connection to that the source energy that is our consciousness.

    1. I experienced the phenomenon in ’69 during an accident on I-5 near El Toro. My whole life in an instant. I walked away without a scratch.

    2. So, Joe, heaven and hell are nonsense, but a.”source energy” isn’t nonsense? What is the source of the energy?

  15. If the religious organization Templeton is involved in research of this type, I find that research’s outcomes likely to deserve a much greater skepticism and require a few ticks higher corroboration and replication from unbiased entities before I will begin to buy in.

  16. Mental/emotional protective mechanisms serve absolutely no purpose if you’ve reached the point of dying. There is a full and complete letting go of unnecessary processing, and what remains is present and lucid because that’s all you really are without cultural conditioning, baggage, and the trauma/drama of life as it is with an identity simulation (ego) serving as a barrier. It’s not unique or special, or something a credentialed conceptual framework (story) will touch: it’s just unfiltered input, the same as when you were first born.

  17. Interesting. Spiritual leaders like j Krishnamurti emphasised total silence of mind as meditation technique. Silence through detachment and not by driving them away. May be near death this experience of detachment occurs whatever has been the life style.

  18. I believe there is an entire academic research field that documents after death experiences (previously referred to as NDEs). Some of this peer-reviewed research by medical doctors and post-PhD scientists at upper-tier universities does, in fact, conclusively document experiences that a patient has had following death. To fall back on the old narrative that brain activity somehow ‘increases’ following death is a bit discordant with the recent literature.

  19. I was in a car accident where i was ejected while the car tumbled down a cliff, I do not recall being unconscious BUT as the accident occured. I saw many memories from my life that were good and bad some major life events and others petty sibling bickering, I assumed that was where the expression my life flashed before my eyes came from. It opened my eyes to a more optimistic view in the faiths. This is a very interesting article.

  20. I had a tubular pregnancy and hemmoraged on labor day 1972. By the time I finally got to the hospital and they found an anothesiologist, I went into shock from loss of blood. While out, they had to use paddles to bring me back after my heart stopped. I recall running through a field of yellow flowes toward a tree where my
    Beloved deceased aunt sat wearing a blue dress (she was buried in) reading a book. The doctor told my husband I had expired until I was resuscitated.

  21. First they need to believe that you actually are dying I had a Widowmaker on a Monday morning I knew something was bad wrong. buddy drove me to the hospital after he doubted me. EGT showed nothing they were convincing me of what a panic attack felt like when they finally got my troponin levels back. I was heading Flatline when they were shaving my groin to do a heart cath and that is when everything went sideways. Had never had a dream that lucid except for when I was trying to quit smoking and took Chantix. Two stints and a busted sternum. 11 pills a day.thank you big guy who was straddling me doing compressions I’m still here.

  22. Your article started off great, but then began trying to paraphrase to get more mileage out of the subject only to repeat it. Try researching other sources of information from contemporaries, or wait for new and improved data to emerge from the scientific community.

    1. All this evidence for a deeper level of existence and people still want to hold onto the notion that we’re just biology.

  23. I underwent CPR last year when my heart stopped during an endoscopy. I didn’t have any of thexperiences described in this article, although I was vaguely aware of being in the dark and being unable to move. I began to struggle and later the doctors told me I began fighting them. That’s all I remember. A year later I am fine.

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