Near-death experiences a trick of the brain, researchers find
- From a study done in Scotland:
Near-death experiences are not paranormal but triggered by a change in normal brain function, according to researchers.
Psychologists who reviewed a range of phenomena
such as out-of-body experiences, visions of tunnels
of light or encounters with dead relatives, say they
are tricks of the mind rather than a glimpse of the afterlife.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh and
Cambridge University say that most of the experiences
can be explained by a reaction in the brain prompted
by a traumatic, though sometimes harmless, event.
Caroline Watt, of the University of Edinburgh's School
of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, said:
"Some of the studies we examined show that many of
the people experiencing a near-death experience were
not actually in danger of dying, although most thought they were.
"The scientific evidence suggests that all aspects
of the near-death experience have a biological basis."
The researchers say that many common near-death
experiences could be caused by the brain's attempt
to make sense of unusual sensations and perceptions
occurring during a traumatic event.
Out-of-body experiences, for example, may happen
when there is a breakdown in the brain's multi-sensory
processes, and visions of tunnels and bright lights
could stem from a breakdown in the brain's visual system
caused by oxygen deprivation.
The new study also points to the effects of noradrenaline,
a hormone released by the mid-brain which, when triggered,
may evoke positive emotions, hallucinations and other
features of the near-death experience.
Approximately 3% of the US population say they have had
a near-death experience, according to a Gallup poll.
Near-death experiences are reported across cultures
and can be found in literature dating back to ancient Greece.
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