Doctors have witnessed someone's life flashing before their eyes – in a sense.
In an unexpected twist of fate, an 87-year-old Canadian man with epilepsy who was undergoing a electroencephalogram (EEG) suddenly had a heart attack and died. Never before had anyone been undergoing this kind of brain scan at the moment of their death.
Because the scan was ongoing, doctors were able to witness the brain's electrical activity both before and after the patient's death, and what they saw was a lot of activity in the brain regions associated with memory, dreaming, and meditation. Furthermore, because high-frequency gamma waves were present, the doctors believe the man's brain was replaying memories from his life.
“Through generating oscillations involved in memory retrieval, 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,” neuroscientist Ajmal Zemmar said in a news release. "Surprisingly, after the heart stops pumping blood into the brain, these oscillations keep going. So that was extremely surprising for us to see."
The patient had a no-resuscitation order in place, so doctors were not allowed to try to bring him back to life after his heart attack.
The bizarre brain:
- The brain can't feel pain; some brain surgery is performed without anesthesia, with the patient fully conscious.
- Your brain never shuts off; while you sleep, your brain is doing things like preserving information and making sure you don't move about.
- The brain is made up of two separate hemispheres that operate almost independently of each other.