Neuroscientist Christof Koch has just published an interesting article in Scientific American on near-death experiences:

Near-death experiences, or NDEs, are triggered during singular life-threatening episodes when the body is injured by blunt trauma, a heart attack, asphyxia, shock, and so on. About one in 10 patients with cardiac arrest in a hospital setting undergoes such an episode. Thousands of survivors of these harrowing touch-and-go situations tell of leaving their damaged bodies behind and encountering a realm beyond everyday existence, unconstrained by the usual boundaries of space and time. These powerful, mystical experiences can lead to permanent transformation of their lives.

Koch points out that NDEs share common characteristics across individuals, cultures, and historical eras—freedom from pain, traveling down a tunnel to a light, an intense sense of peace, seeing loved ones, experiencing a life review, and having an unusual sense of time and space. These experiences are also remembered with unusual intensity. To the person who experiences them, they seem “realer than real”—and they often fundamentally change the person’s outlook on life.

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