Is the locus of consciousness outside of the body? Doctors at 25 US and UK hospitals have agreed to participate in a study to find out. These doctors, over the next several years, will participate in an experiment that will determine the truth of “out of body” experiences that are sometimes reported by resuscitated patients. They hope to study up to 1500 survivors of cardiac arrest and other emergencies to see if people with no heartbeat or brain activity, in fact, have “out of body experiences.”
Part of the experiment will consist of places images and messages in Intensive Care Units or Emergency rooms in locations impossible to see unless one’s consciousness just happens to be floating above the whole scene, say, from the ceiling.
Dr Sam Parnia, who is heading the study, said: “”This is a mystery that we can now subject to scientific study. If you can demonstrate that consciousness continues after the brain switches off, it allows for the possibility that the consciousness is a separate entity.
“It is unlikely that we will find many cases where this happens, but we have to be open-minded. And if no one sees the pictures, it shows these experiences are illusions or false memories.”
Steven Novella, a neurologist at Yale School of Medicine, for one, is skeptical. Novella is the cofounder of the New England Skeptical Society, and believes “out of body” experiences have a neurological basis.
A 2007 article from Time Magazine has this to say about Near Death Experiences (NDE):
“The conflict in science over NDEs centers not on whether they happen but on what they are. It’s accepted, based on various studies, that between 4% and 18% of people who are resuscitated after cardiac arrest have an NDE. Researchers tend to fall into one of two camps. The first argues that an NDE is a purely physiological phenomenon that occurs within an oxygen-starved brain.
“The second camp is as adamant that no theory based purely on the workings of the brain can account for all elements of an NDE, and that we should consider the mind-bending possibility that consciousness can exist independent of a functioning brain, or at least that consciousness is more complex than we suppose. Though NDEs are driven in part by neurochemistry and psychology, says Auckland psychiatrist Karl Jansen, it has ‘underlying mechanisms in more mysterious realms that cannot currently be described.’”