Latest study on brain activity of dead patients has suggested that brain activity continues even after the heart stops beating. As part of the research, one of the patients' brains carried its activity for more than 10 minutes after the person was considered clinically dead.
The brain activity was very similar to the one recorded from people who were engaged in deep sleep. The study, published in the Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, was carried out by specialists from the University of Western Ontario.
Brain Activity Can Continue After Death
The findings shed new light on how complex brain activity is in reality. Previous research carried out on decapitated rats suggested that in the minute after dying, the brain activity undergoes a surge. Before this study was published, scientist believed that the brain can remain active for up to one minute after the complete cessation of the arterial blood pressure and cardiac rhythm. However, this paper points out toward a massive difference between the brain activity of rats and that observed on people.
As part of the research, the scientists analyzed four clinically ill subjects, who were just taken off life support in an ICU in Ontario. The level of brain activity differed for each of the subjects, both moments before dying and immediately after. Some of the subjects' brain activity had even stopped before they were actually dead.
At the same time, there was one subject who experienced a surge of brain activity, both before and immediately after dying. According to the doctors, the brain activity continued for another mysterious 10 minutes and 38 seconds after the patient was declared dead.
"In a case series of four patients, EEG inactivity preceded electrocardiogram and ABP inactivity during the dying process in three patients. Further study of the electroencephalogram during the withdrawal of life-sustaining therapies will add clarity to medical, ethical, and legal concerns for donation after circulatory determined death," noted the paper.
The team of researchers is inclined to believe that the occurrence they observed was a rare phenomenon rather than a scientific reality. Also, before getting to the conclusion that the patient's brain activity continued for more than 10 minutes after having been clinically dead, the scientists were tempted to believe another hypothesis.
As the delta waves of brain activity were only present in one of the four patients, the scientists thought that the EEG machine could have been faulty. However, upon checking the machine, they concluded that it was perfectly functional. This left them with the only conclusion that the brain activity did, indeed, happen as noted.
Additionally, the paper provides enough information as to conclude that death is a personal experience, which can take place differently for each individual.
Death, A Mysterious Phenomenon
While the phenomenon the team of scientists observed is extraordinary, the researchers avoided drawing a clear conclusion. The reason for their skepticism lies in the fact that the sample they observed is not scientifically representative for a large population.
In order to have more conclusive evidence of the phenomenon, the researchers would have to carry on examining brain activity before and immediately after death. However, this issue is highly sensitive, as it is subjected to ethical implications.
Should this example prove conclusive for humankind, the scientific world would have to revise some of the policies of organ donation.