Brain Activity Might Continue After Death

Brain activity

Researchers discovered that brain activity did not stop in a patient ten minutes after the person had been declared dead

A new study performed by scientists from the University of Western Ontario, Canada, found that brain activity might continue even after death. During the research, they discovered that the brain of a patient continued functioning more than 10 minutes after the person was considered clinically dead.

They study appeared in the Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences. They found that the brain activity of the deceased person resembled that of people engaged in deep sleep.

Brain activity might not stop with the heart

Before this study was performed, scientists thought that brain activity could continue up to one minute after the cardiac rhythm stopped. They had performed a study on decapitated rats which found that their brain underwent a surge immediately after dying. However, the study points out the difference between rat brains and human brains.

For the study, the scientists observed four clinically ill patients immediately after they had been taken off life support. The brain activity differed in each of the subjects, both before and after dying. For instance, the activity of some patients’ brains stopped when they were still alive.

However, one of the patients experienced a surge in his brain activity both before and after the moment of dying. The researchers noticed how his brain activity continued 10 minutes and 38 seconds after he was declared clinically dead.

Since the other three patients experienced a decline in their brain activity before the cessation of the other vital signs, the researchers tend to believe that this fourth case is an exception and not a scientific reality.

Initially, they thought that the EEG machine might have been broken, but afterwards they found that it was perfectly functional. Thus, they established that the brain activity did continue after death in that patient. Rather than proving a scientific truth, they explained that death was a personal experience and it can differ from person to person.

Death puzzles the scientists

The researchers indeed witnessed a rare and extraordinary phenomenon. However, they avoided drawing a clear conclusion, since their study cannot be applied to a larger number of people.

For a better study, the researchers would have to examine the activity of the brain both before and after death in a larger number of people. Such a study is more difficult to undertake, since it has many ethical implications.

If a study proved that brain activity might continue after death, this would bring revisions to the policies that concern organ donations.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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