World first recording of dying brain reveals the secrets to our final moments

Feb 26, 2022
For the first time scientists have had the opportunity to observe the activity of a dying brain. Source: Getty Images.

A first-of-its-kind recording of a dying brain has revealed an incredible insight into death and what happens as we die.

Scientists made the discovery by chance when an 87-year-old patient who was being treated for epilepsy was hooked up to an electroencephalogram (EEG) to record his brain activity.

As the recording was being conducted the patient suffered a heart attack and passed away. The unfortunate incident provided scientists with the opportunity to observe the activity of a dying brain for the first time, with the findings being published in the Frontiers in Ageing Neuroscience.

During the 30 seconds before and after the patient’s heart stopped beating, an increase in a specific brain wave was measured.

The wave is known as gamma oscillations and is related to functions such as concentrating, dreaming, meditation, and memory retrieval.

Dr Ajmal Zemmar, a neurosurgeon at the University of Louisville, who conducted the study said “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,” he said.

“These findings challenge our understanding of when exactly life ends and generates important subsequent questions, such as those related to the timing of organ donation.”

Similar changes in brain waves at the time of death have previously been observed in rats but this is the first time such brain activity has been witnessed in humans.

Although this study is a single occurrence, Zemmar believes the findings could provide a source of hope for families grieving the loss of their loved ones.

“As a neurosurgeon, I deal with loss at times. It is indescribably difficult to deliver the news of death to distraught family members,” he said.

“Something we may learn from this research is although our loved ones have their eyes closed and are ready to leave us to rest, their brains may be replaying some of the nicest moments they experienced in their lives.”

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