- A recording of a man’s brainwaves at the time of his death showed patterns similar to what occurs during dreaming, memory recall, and meditation.
- Around the time of death, the EEG recorded changes in gamma brainwaves (oscillations) and other types of brainwaves.
- The man was in the hospital after developing epilepsy after a fall. During an EEG scan, he had a heart attack and died.
A team of scientists inadvertently recorded the brainwaves of an 87-year-old patient as he died, providing the first glimpse at what happens in the brain during the final moments of life.
The man’s brainwave patterns in the 30 seconds before and after his heart stopped beating were similar to what occurs during dreaming, memory recall, and meditation.
The man was in the hospital after developing epilepsy after a fall. While doctors were using continuous electroencephalography (EEG) to detect his seizures and treat him, the man had a heart attack and died.
Around the time of death, the EEG recorded changes in gamma brainwaves (oscillations) and other types of brainwaves.
“Through generating oscillations involved in memory retrieval, the brain may be playing a last recall of important life events just before we die, similar to the ones reported in near-death experiences,” study author Dr. Ajmal Zemmar, a neurosurgeon at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, speculated in a news release.
However, it’s impossible to know based on the EEG what the man may have experienced in his mind at the time of death.
In addition, “These findings challenge our understanding of when exactly life ends and generate important subsequent questions, such as those related to the timing of organ donation,” said Zemmar.
The researchers caution against drawing broad conclusions based on this study, which involved only one patient.
In addition, the man had epilepsy with swelling and bleeding in the brain. “Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and white matter damage can influence rhythmic brain activity,” the authors wrote in the paper.
The study was published Feb. 22 in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.