A large-scale study was carried out in 2008 involving 15 hospitals and 2,060 patients in the United States, Austria, and the United Kingdom regarding near-death or out-of-body experiences. Now the study has concluded and results are in.

Called "AWAreness during REsuscitation" or AWARE, the study ventured into examining a number of mental experiences related to death. Objective studies about this topic have been limited so AWARE was launched to gain further insight into the phenomena.

Dr. Sam Parnia, lead author for the study and The State University of New York's Director of Resuscitation Research and Critical Care Medicine assistant professor explained that death isn't a precise moment. Instead, it's a possibly reversible process happening after an accident or severe illness when the brain, heart, and lungs stop functioning. If someone tries to reverse the process, it will be known as cardiac arrest. If they fail, only then will it be called death. By going beyond terms defined by emotion, AWARE seeks to objectively explore what really happens to a person when they die.

Published in the journal Resuscitation, the study notes that in some instances of cardiac arrest out-of-body experiences may match actual events. Also, a high percentage of the subjects may have had vivid experiences after death but are not able to recall them because of the effects of sedative drugs on memory or brain injury. It might also not be precise to use the terms near-death or out-of-body experiences to refer to actually experiencing death.

Out of all the subjects who survived cardiac arrest, 39 percent were able to complete structured interviews and relay perceptions of awareness but were not able to recall exact events.

From those who positively reported experiencing awareness, 46 percent manifested a wide array of recollections associated with death that didn't match descriptions of near-death experiences exactly. These recollections include major cognitive themes like family, deja-vu, violence or persecution, bright lights, animals or plants, and fear.

Only 9 percent underwent compatible experiences with near-death experiences while just 2 percent remember full awareness, hearing and seeing as depicted of out-of-body experiences.

"Thus, while it was not possible to absolutely prove the reality or meaning of patients' experiences and claims of awareness, it was impossible to disclaim them either and more work is needed in this area. Clearly, the recalled experience surrounding death now merits further genuine investigation without prejudice," concludes Dr. Parnia.

AWARE was sponsored by the UK's University of Southampton.

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