What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about the Brain

Near-death experiences (NDEs) have fascinated people for centuries. These experiences often involve a feeling of being outside one’s body, a sense of peace and tranquility, and encounters with deceased loved ones or spiritual beings. While these experiences are often attributed to the afterlife, modern science suggests that they may have a more earthly explanation. Recent studies have revealed some fascinating insights into what NDEs reveal about the brain.

What are Near-Death Experiences?

A near-death experience is a subjective experience reported by people who have come close to death or have been pronounced clinically dead but later revived. These experiences are often characterized by feelings of detachment from the body, peace, and transcendence. People who report near-death experiences often describe seeing a bright light, feeling a sense of calmness and warmth, and encountering deceased loved ones or spiritual beings.

The Role of the Brain in Near-Death Experiences

One of the most compelling theories about near-death experiences is that they are caused by changes in the brain. Studies have shown that the brain undergoes a series of changes during a near-death experience, including a decrease in blood flow to the brain and a surge of neurochemicals. These changes can cause altered states of consciousness and may be responsible for the subjective experience of a near-death experience.

The Decrease in Blood Flow to the Brain

One of the most significant changes that occur during a near-death experience is a decrease in blood flow to the brain. This decrease in blood flow can cause a lack of oxygen to the brain, which can lead to hallucinations and altered states of consciousness. Studies have also shown that when the brain is deprived of oxygen, it releases a surge of neurochemicals, including dopamine and serotonin, which can produce feelings of euphoria.

The Role of the Temporoparietal Junction

Another area of the brain that has been linked to near-death experiences is the temporoparietal junction (TPJ). The TPJ is responsible for processing sensory information and is involved in the experience of self-awareness. Studies have shown that when the TPJ is disrupted, people can experience out-of-body experiences, which are often reported by people who have had near-death experiences.

The Role of the Limbic System

The limbic system is the part of the brain that is responsible for regulating emotions and memory. Studies have shown that during a near-death experience, the limbic system becomes more active, which can cause intense emotions and vivid memories. This increased activity in the limbic system may be responsible for the sense of peace and tranquility that people report during near-death experiences.

The Future of Near-Death Experience Research

While near-death experiences remain a topic of fascination for many people, the scientific study of NDEs is still in its early stages. However, recent research has provided some fascinating insights into what NDEs reveal about the brain. In the future, further research may help us to better understand the complex relationship between the brain and consciousness.


Near-death experiences remain a mystery, but recent research has provided some insight into the role of the brain in these experiences. The decrease in blood flow to the brain, the role of the temporoparietal junction, and the limbic system are just a few of the areas of the brain that have been linked to near-death experiences. While there is still much to learn about this fascinating phenomenon, it is clear that the brain plays a critical role in shaping our subjective experiences of the world around us.

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