Media Continues to Spread Misleading Information about Near-Death Experiences

I intended on a different, more scholarly post today but unfortunately I must instead subject you to a rant.  Below is one of many misleading media articles about near-death experiences that lead readers to assume that science has somehow ‘proven’ the mechanism for these superconscious experiences before and during clinical death.   I would normally ignore articles like this, but I thought it would illustrate just how potentially damaging poorly-researched articles can be for readers who are undecided, questioning, or simply uninformed.

Here’s the news article in question, from Metro.uk.co.  My comments to each troublesome statement are in purple.

http://metro.co.uk/2016/07/18/this-is-what-actually-happens-in-your-brain-during-a-near-death-experience-6012867

This is what actually happens in your brain during a near-death-experience

Source: Metro.uk.co
by Rob Waugh on July 18, 2016

Metro Article: Religious people often point to ‘long dark tunnel’-style near death experiences as proof that God exists – and we’re all going to meet him after death. But the truth is actually a bit different.  Belgian researchers analysed the experiences of 400 people around the world – and found that experiences tended to be similar, regardless of culture.

Me: How does the similarity of near-death experiences refute their validity?

Metro Article: This suggests that ‘near death experiences’ are actually biological, rather than religious, according to Steven Laureys – who used brain scanners to identify the area of the brain responsible.

Me: In response to the first statement regarding the biological bases of NDEs:

“NDEs are quite varied, but the consistency of the NDE elements (OBE experience, tunnel, light, meeting other beings, etc.) is striking. There is no plausible biological explanation of NDEs. There is no other human experience so dramatic, shared by so many people, and so relatively consistent in its elements. The preceding suggests faith in the validity of NDE accounts is the most reasonable conclusion from the evidence.”

Dr. Jeffrey Long, Oncologist and NDE Researcher

In response to the second statement: Neurologists have never ‘found’ the part of the brain ‘responsible’ for near-death experiences.  There are plenty of hypotheses, but certainly no scientific proof.

Metro Article: He also found that it was possible to induce a near-death experience artificially.

Me: This ought to be good.

Metro Article: People can trigger near-death experiences by hyperventilating and rapidly changing posture – and one researcher did it and saw a ‘long dark tunnel’.

Me: Hyperventilating?  Really?  And your scientific proof is ‘one researcher’ did it?

Metro Article: Dr Laureys used a brain scanner and found that the experiences trigger activity in a brain region called the temporal parietal junction.

Me: If I am understanding this correctly, Dr. Laureys used a brain scanner on his hyperventilating colleague and recorded what happened in the brain.  So, he recorded what happens during hyperventilation?

Near-death experiences mostly happen in people who are either clinically dead or near clinically dead.  Hyperventilation is not at all similar to an actual NDE situation.  In many NDEs, brain scans register zero activity because the person is clinically dead at the time of their reported conscious experience. 

Metro Article: Dr Laureys said, ‘All over the world, stories of near-death experience keep emerging and that means we can pick out similar factors and try to work out what is causing them.’ What we found suggests that even people who seem unconscious or in a coma could be living a rich neurological life.’

Me: True, for totally different reasons.

Metro Article: What people actually see during near-death experiences

Metro Article: Seeing a long, dark tunnel with a light coming towards you as you die is actually surprisingly rare, according to a study of more than 1,000 people who ‘died’.

Me: According to ‘The God Study’ by Dr. Jeffrey Long, 33% of NDErs had the tunnel experience.  In another study of 50 NDEs, 47% have the tunnel experience.  However, NDEs that lack the tunnel experience aren’t any less authentic, sincere, genuine or important.  NDEs can have any number of elements on the Greyson Scale, but very rarely do they have them all.

Metro Article: Sadly, so is seeing a kindly old man playing a harp on a cloud

Me: If the writer is sarcastically referring to ‘God’ or ‘the light’ or the sense of divinity in general, it’s a significant part of NDEs; in the same NDE study as above 56% saw what they called ‘God’.  In Dr. Jeffrey Long’s God Study, 45.5% saw ‘God’ or a ‘Supreme Being’.  I would not categorize this as rare.

Metro Article: Around half of the patients recalled something from their time in cardiac arrest – but many of these experiences are frightening, or involve memories of real events (from a time when the person is supposedly dead).

Me: Only 17-18% of NDEs are considered frightening to the experiencer. –Source
The second statement about memories of real events during clinical death seems to support my position, so I’m a bit confused.

Metro Article: Only around 2% of patients have ‘classic’ near-death experiences – for the others, it is often very different.

Me: What defines a “classic NDE”?  “Near death experiences (NDE) are reported in 4-9% of general community members and up to 23% of critical illness patients, although they can occur in healthy individuals who may think they are in peril.” –Source

774 NDEs occur in the United States every day. –Source

Metro Article: The researchers, from the University of Southampton, studied 2,060 patients who had been through cardiac arrest, and then come back.  Dr Sam Parnia said that in one case, researchers were able to verify that a patient had recalled real events after their heart had stopped.   Several patients remembered real events from the operating theatre after they had ‘died’.

Me: So, the title of this article is “this is what actually happens in your brain when you have a near-death experience, and yet Dr. Parnia’s patients remembered real events after their brains were clinically dead? Doesn’t this refute the article’s initial assumptions?

Metro Article: Dr Parnia said: ‘This is significant, since it has often been assumed that experiences in relation to death are likely hallucinations or illusions, occurring either before the heart stops or after the heart has been successfully restarted, but not an experience corresponding with ‘real’ events when the heart isn’t beating.

Me: Dr. Parnia’s statements about the AWARE study results were probably included to try to argue that this article was fair, balanced and properly researched.  Unfortunately, most of the article completely attempts to refute what Dr. Parnia asserts here, and most readers won’t get past the headline anyway.

The last word:

I am not arguing that we know for sure what causes NDEs or why they occur.  We don’t have scientific proof that near-death experiences aren’t neurological in origin.  (They certainly aren’t caused by hyperventilation). What we do know is that NDEs occur in a wide segment of the population, are incredibly common, share common elements despite drastic differences in demographics and beliefs, can’t be pinned to any particular physical crisis state either before or during clinical death.  They are unusual from a medical and psychological perpective.

They can’t all be simply explained away by lack of oxygen, morphine, REM states, that infamous rat study, evolutionary responses to impending death, or many other “one size fits all” explanations.  NDEs occur in people who know they might die, and those who don’t have time to realize it.  They occur with drugs and without drugs, in children and in adults, atheists and the religious, in every type of clinical death experience, and many that occur without clinical death.

All we have on both sides of the argument are hypotheses, guesses and more questions.  We may have personal beliefs about what NDEs mean, but we cannot and should not ignore the lack of scientific proof in favor of our desire to be right – and I mean that for both sides of the argument.

We also can’t forget that NDEs are life changing to the experiencer to a degree that few other experiences are.  I have never come across a person who has had a real near-death experience that ever denied that it wasn’t absolutely, 100% real.  I think it does a real disservice to the people who have had this very real, life-changing event to pretend that it isn’t important or simply write it off with an unproven pseudo-scientific explanation.

Hyperventilation..  really?

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39 thoughts on “Media Continues to Spread Misleading Information about Near-Death Experiences

  1. Journalists seem to be regurgitating each other’s (mis)information. It’s like I’ve read that article before, over and over.

    Damaging. Very very damaging. To the people on the fence, and the people searching, deep in the shackles of their grief. What a shame.

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  2. Metro Article: This suggests that ‘near death experiences’ are actually biological, rather than religious, according to Steven Laureys – who used brain scanners to identify the area of the brain responsible.

    Very amusing conclusion here! So they were expecting some people to be meeting Buddha, some Krishna, others Mohammed? And if this were the case, that would be a proof of the spiritual nature of NDEs? Funny. What this really suggests is that religions are man-made, while there’s single divine power, aka God, and people of all religions and cultures finally come to realise that and if these reporters bothered to explore it further and help communicate this to the world we would definitely live in a better place without all the insanities happenning all over the place today.

    Agree to all of your commentary, Jean.

    P.S. I actually use hyperventilation to some extent through yogic pranayama breath control to induce out-of-body experiences (OOBEs) and although I have only registered very limited successful attempts so far, it does work, but it doesn’t take you to those higher planes, where a person normally would appear in an NDE, that would take a lot of practice and very high spirituality/consciousness level to induce a state to be able to reach there.

    Love,
    Hope

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    1. Hi Hope! Thanks for your comment. I’ve heard of yogic breathing before, that is very fascinating, thank you. I have often wondered if meditative or spiritual experiences work in tandem with both the brain and the higher consciousness. It would make more sense than an either/or situation. For example, could it be possible that the tunnel experience is brain-based, but the actual NDE experience is consciousness-based (out of the body)? Certainly, it doesn’t need to be all or nothing, since the body and the consciousness/spirit seem very much intertwined in a spiritual sense.
      Jenn

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  3. Right, Hope – I agree (to disagree) on the author (of the blog post above) preoccupation with hyperventilation as a bad area to explore when looking at the validity of the NDE.

    There are many, many practices that use hyperventilation (as an umbrella term for various breath based exercises for inducing altered states) – and the similarity between NDE’s and “pranayama” can be found in not only yogic practice – but also in more conventional esoteric therapies like “Holotropic Breath Work” as taught by Stan Grof, and others too varied to count.

    To discount this as an area of interest to folks on all sides of the NDE fence – is to not to understand the terrain of spiritual practice in full. (and to limit oneself to only a rudimentary understanding of the NDE itself – of which, while I disagree with Dr. Laurey’s conclusions, he is at least endeavoring to study in a serious way)

    NDE’s will never provide “proof” of an afterlife – full stop. (and there are plenty of NDE cases where folks aren’t convinced they are proof of life after death – even if you look at NDERF.org you’ll read minority accounts where this is the takeaway)

    There is too much we don’t understand about consciousness itself – that may speak to an evolving sense of what information is – where it lives – how deep it goes, etc – (panpsychism for example – in the spirit of Spinoza – (no pun intended 🙂 is gaining traction in many materialist circles – and yet doesn’t posit an afterlife)

    The best evidence for life after death – or consciousness as distinct from the body – will have to come from other areas of inquiry. (and most likely, the most powerful evidence DOES in fact come from personal practices like “hyperventilation” (framed in a more structured practice) which can reliably induce a sense of spiritual separation from the body in a reliable and repeatable way)

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  4. News flash! Water is wet and fire is hot and people have NDEs! It’s really amazing how much denial there is in the materialist world view when you can beyond it. So much hand waving and weak arguments!

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  5. Hello everyone, I write from Italy….the interview on daylimail speaks of an episode of national geographic where laureys speaks of this and doing experiments of obe . someone has seen the episode? Thanks and sorry for my english!

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    1. Hi Brandon,

      First of all, I am very sorry to hear that your friend is sick and I hope I can help with your fears and with his. Unfortunately, the link you posted didn’t seem to work for me but I will give you my honest opinion based on what I’ve studied. Near-Death Experiences have been studied rigorously by medical doctors and neurologists for decades. Its true that there is no scientific proof that near-death experiences are paranormal experiences. HOWEVER, there is also no real academic study or research that proves that near-death experiences are caused by the brain either. If it was that simple, all of the doctors who have been studying brain scans and running tests would have found it 20 years ago.

      The near-death experiences that they claim are ‘induced’ don’t have anything in common with real near-death experiences. The article I just posted claimed that near-death experiences could be replicated by hyperventilation, which is one of the more ridiculous claims I’ve ever heard. If there had been any kind of real breakthrough in proving NDEs as brain based, it would have turned the scientific NDE community up-side down which certainly has not happened. What you and your friend are reading and/or watching are scientific guesses – brain based experiments that try to emulate a real near-death experience in order to explain it away as a dream, hallucination, psychological problem, drug over dose, perceptual disorders, etc. Although scientists may be able to give a person a certain feeling that is somewhat similar, they are not near-death experiences, which are so profound that they are life-changing to pretty much anyone who has them.

      So the bottom line is this: NDEs are still unresolved phenomena. I find it impressive that every single person who has had a near-death experience (that I’ve read about) are 100% convinced that they visited the afterlife. That’s a pretty powerful experience, and no drug trip or hallucination or dream is so convincing that people spend the rest of their lives without any fear of death.

      Here’s what I suggest for you and for your friend. Start reading some of the really good literature on the subject; start with the classic “Life after Life’ by Dr. Raymond Moody, then read “The Big Book of Near Death Experiences” by P.M.H Atwater, “Proof of Heaven” from Dr. Eben Alexander, and ‘Evidence of the Afterlife’ by Dr. Jeffery Long. These are some of the best and brightest doctors, scientists and researchers in the field of NDE research. If your friend doesn’t already know of the website nderf.org, then he simply must go there. It is a repository of hundreds, if not thousands, of real near-death experience reports. I read them when I am feeling down and they lift my spirits immediately.

      Finally, don’t forget that there are 7 lines of afterlife research: NDEs, after-death communications, past-life memories, death-bed visions, mediumship/channeling communications, Instrumental Transcommunication, and Out-of-Body Experiences. Research them all – I think you’ll find that the evidence for the afterlife is overwhelming.

      On more thing – because your friend is dealing with illness, I recommend the book ‘Dying to be Me” by Anita Moorjani. Its a wonderful inspirational book for anyone going through an illness, and she had a miraculous near-death experience and a miraculous healing. She has the medical records to prove that her stage four cancer resolved spontaneously (though I haven’t seen it posted, in all fairness) but its hard not to admit that something incredible occured.

      If you and/or your friend would like more information, please check out my ‘resources for afterlife research’ page as well as the ‘recommended reading’ page. It will give you a place to start in order for you both to weigh the evidence for yourself.

      Best of luck to you and to your friend,

      ~Jenn

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      1. well u can find the video at net geo.com i think but what happen is that people that went threw that 2 felt liek they were out of there body and 1 saw there gandma

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  6. but thats all i want to know and i sent u guys a contact message from the same email before but this is what i have bin thinking about now and how old is the film by this guy it just worrys me and my friend now i hope tis fake and does mean much but tell me the best u can plz

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    1. Brandon, you show your friend my site, and listen to some recordings, and that should allay his fears about continuity.
      Replicating NDEs is rather silly, in so far as they can’t actually be replicated. Like comparing a plastic bead to a real pearl.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. after u watch it tell me how it is me and my friend watch the last 5 min then i don’t he to just turn it off i really don’t want to get threw it

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  7. return from the dead, that’s what it is called u can find it on nat geo website i did not watch the whole thing so sure what u think and for the past 2 week and for a while i am trying to become a medium i know it will be years but i am in a group with it now we have a medium who is helping for free and a spiritualist church so i hope with time i will be able to talk to the people who have past it take a long time but i think its the best way to find out and does any body know what the percent of people that are in the usa think there is an afterlife Reberta grimes said it was 81 but that is high but if it is good i just hope that our science is changing and more and more people will think there is life after death that’s what my friend wants before he passes

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  8. Excellent job with this Jenn. I didn’t read through the other comments so I may be reiterating what others have said.

    I kinda laughed when they claimed to be able to mimic NDE’s with hyperventilating. Rhythmic breathing and breath control has been used to reach altered states of consciousness basically since we have had lungs. (Fun fact; DMT appears to be produced in the lungs) Looks like they made a half assed attempt at this and claimed one minor symptom accounted for the vastness and richness of NDE stories which all seam to point to the same core elements. Oh we saw lights! Case closed!

    Another point is just because you discover the mechanism or part of the brain by which something works doesn’t mean you found the source. If I take DMT and experience fantastical worlds and beings does that mean the drug caused them or simply filtered my brain in a way that my consciousness could perceive what is always there? The truth is nobody truly knows what is happening and anybody who claims they do is hurting actual progress in the field and padding a materialist movement that is ultimately cynical and not really skeptical at all. It also shows they have very little understanding of the phenomena; ie claiming NDEs are similar across cultures actually hurts his argument it doesn’t help it.

    Sorry for the rant but this stuff irritates me.

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    1. Excellent point about DMT and the assumption that it’s effects are caused by the brain vs. possibly reducing the filters, so to speak. Scientists know a lot about the mechanics of the brain but very little about how it mechanically relates to human experience.

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      1. very true i think we need to change our ways soon to stay away from the atheist science stuff i thought the film was pretty bad and did u watch it jenn and what did u think

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        1. I’m watching it now, I’ll give you my opinion later tonight or tomorrow latest. This is the same guy who suggested it might be hyperventilation. I’ll be honest with my opinion but I’m not too worried.

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        1. I can’t give you a lengthy review at the moment, because I am not home at the moment and I am going to be busy the next few days, but honestly – there was nothing surprising about this documentary at all. Most of the Dr. Laureys demonstrated about the brain has very little to do with NDEs. He was able to reproduce (only somewhat) singular effects of the experience, but these were poor copies of the real thing. Plus, he was not able to recreate the entire NDE experience at once. The OBE thing I’ve seen before – they have to use machines, video equipement and trickery to get the brain to think it sees something different. This is not at all what happens during a real OBE either. There is nothing groundbreaking in this video, I assure you. It demonstrates the awesome power of the brain, but doesn’t prove anything with regard to near-death experiences. I hope that calms your fears – when I’m back around I can expand on it more, point by point if you’d like.
          ~Jenn

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          1. ok found it nice my last comment i ask about your this in my next question just don’t answer it i did not see this but yeah its not my fears its more his i am okay i under stand once a mounth there is a thing i call the atheist paper fest were they debunk every thing there is most of the time ndes i bet that why u made this page right lol

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  9. just woke up wanted to sure just had my frist obe lat night it was so cool i was sitting on m bed then went to sleep but then i went to change a channel on the tv but my hand went threw it then i was like wait i am going to test this so i went to a work sight were there is a crane and there is a number on it a long one so i wanted to look at the first 3 number look at them 985 and then came back did not get all the way back then kinda just fell into my body it felt. so i went out drove out there then climbed the fence lol could of got in trouble but IT WAS THE SAME NUMBERS 985 haha but as this movie said its just my brain lol

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    1. Congratulations!! That’s a wonderful experience you had! So either you actually visted that worksite to see those numbers or else you simply got them through dream telepathy? Either way, some scientists would tell you its not possible and you just had a lucky guess. Just like with the NDEs, I think those scientists really don’t want to believe that any of this is real and so they look for any explanations they can, even if they can’t prove them scientifically.

      By the way, Dr. Laureys, the guy from the NDE video? He wrote a scientific paper claiming that NDEs are NOT the product of dreams… interesting.

      ~Jenn

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      1. yeah how did u think of the movie btw u might of posted and i missed but what did u think of it. and what dou mean is he still saying its just the brain or what do u mean by not dreams

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        1. I’m back! I will explain what I mean – skeptics have long said that near-death experiences are simply dreams that happen when a person is unconscious or in the sleep state after recovery. But Dr. Laureys’s study has shown that NDEs are not simply dreams – they are real experiences for people. Skeptics might say they are hallucinations, but even that is a very different experience than a dream. Does that make sense?

          Jenn

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          1. wow the person trying to prove they are the brain found out that it it more likely not the brain as the evidence becomes more over whelming i hope we will see change i think physical medium ship and ndes are strong evidence but hi jenn great timing just got on here after 1 day or 2

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