The University of Southampton is launching
the world's largest-ever study of near-death
experiences this week.
The AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation)
study is to be launched by the Human Consciousness
Project of the University of Southampton - an
international collaboration of scientists
and physicians who have joined forces to
study the human brain, consciousness
and clinical death.
The study is led by Dr Sam Parnia, an expert
in the field of consciousness during clinical
death, together with Dr Peter Fenwick and
Professors Stephen Holgate and Robert Peveler
of the University of Southampton. Following
a successful 18-month pilot phase at selected
hospitals in the UK, the study is now being
expanded to include other centres within the
UK, mainland Europe and North America.
"Contrary to popular perception," Dr Parnia
explains, "death is not a specific moment. It is
a process that begins when the heart stops
beating, the lungs stop working and the brain
ceases functioning - a medical condition termed
cardiac arrest, which from a biological
viewpoint is synonymous with clinical death.
"During a cardiac arrest, all three criteria
of death are present. There then follows a period
of time, which may last from a few seconds
to an hour or more, in which emergency medical
efforts may succeed in restarting the heart and
reversing the dying process. What people
experience during this period of cardiac arrest
provides a unique window of understanding into
what we are all likely to experience during the
A number of recent scientific studies carried
out by independent researchers have demonstrated
that 10-20 per cent of people who go
through cardiac arrest and clinical death report
lucid, well structured thought processes, reasoning,
memories and sometimes detailed recall of
events during their encounter with death.
During the AWARE study, doctors will use
sophisticated technology to
study the brain and consciousness during
cardiac arrest. At the same time, they will
test the validity of out of body experiences
and claims of being able to 'see' and 'hear'
during cardiac arrest.
The AWARE study will be complemented by the
BRAIN-1 (Brain Resuscitation Advancement
International Network - 1) study, in which the
research team will conduct a variety of
physiological tests in cardiac
arrest patients, as well as cerebral monitoring
techniques that aim to identify methods to
improve the medical and psychological care of
patients who have undergone cardiac arrest.
Dr Parnia will formally announce the launch
of the AWARE study at an international symposium
to be held at the United Nations on September 11.
1. The Human Consciousness Project of the
University of Southampton is an international
consortium of scientists and physicians who have come
together with the aim of studying the brain
and consciousness during cardiac arrest and
clinical death through multi-centre studies across
major academic institutions in the United States,
Canada, and Europe.
2. The current UK centres participating in
the study include Southampton University
Hospitals NHS Trust, Hammersmith and Charing
Cross, St Georges, Mayday, Ashford and
St Peter's, Morriston (Swansea),
Royal Bournemouth, Lister Hospital (Stevenage),
Northampton General, and Salisbury Hospitals.
These will be joined by the John Radcliffe (Oxford)
Addenbrookes (Cambridge), Great Western (Swindon),
University Hospital Birmingham,
James Paget University (Great Yarmouth) and East
Collaborators in the US include Indiana State
University, Rosalind Franklin University of
Medicine and Science, Drexel University, Brooklyn
Medical Center, the University of Virginia,
Wayne State University and New York University;
as well as Vienna General Hospital in Austria.
3. The University of Southampton is a leading
UK teaching and research institution with a
global reputation for leading-edge research and
scholarship across a wide range of subjects in
social sciences, health and humanities.
With over 22,000 students, around 5000 staff,
and an annual turnover of over £350 million,
the University of Southampton is acknowledged as one
of the country's top institutions for
engineering, computer science and
medicine. We combine academic excellence with
an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to
research, supporting a culture that engages
and challenges students and staff in their
pursuit of learning.
The University is also home to a number of
world-leading research centres, including the
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, the
Institute of Sound and Vibration Research,
the Optoelectronics Research Centre, the Centre
for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease,
and the Mountbatten Centre for International Studies.
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