University of Liège researchers have demonstrated that the
physiological mechanisms triggered during NDE lead to a more vivid
perception not only of imagined events in the history of an individual
but also of real events which have taken place in their lives! These
surprising results – obtained using an original method which now
requires further investigation – are published in PLOS ONE.
Seeing a bright light, going through a tunnel, having the feeling of
ending up in another ‘reality’ or leaving one’s own body are very well
known features of the complex phenomena known as ‘Near-Death Experiences
‘ (NDE), which people who are close to death can experience in
particular. Products of the mind? Psychological defence mechanisms?
Hallucinations? These phenomena have been widely documented in the media
and have generated numerous beliefs and theories of every kind. From a
scientific point of view, these experiences are all the more difficult
to understand in that they come into being in chaotic conditions, which
make studying them in real time almost impossible. The University of
Liège’s researchers have thus tried a different approach.
Working together, researchers at the Coma Science Group (Directed by
Steven Laureys) and the University of Liège’s Cognitive Psychology
Research (Professor Serge Brédart and Hedwige Dehon), have looked into
the memories of NDE with the hypothesis that if the memories of NDE were
pure products of the imagination, their phenomenological
characteristics (e.g., sensorial, self referential, emotional, etc.
details) should be closer to those of imagined memories. Conversely, if
the NDE are experienced in a way similar to that of reality, their
characteristics would be closer to the memories of real events.
The researchers compared the responses provided by three groups of
patients, each of which had survived (in a different manner) a coma, and
a group of healthy volunteers. They studied the memories of NDE and the
memories of real events and imagined events with the help of a
questionnaire which evaluated the phenomenological characteristics of
the memories. The results were surprising. From the perspective being
studied, not only were the NDEs not similar to the memories of imagined
events, but the phenomenological characteristics inherent to the
memories of real events (e.g. memories of sensorial details) are even
more numerous in the memories of NDE than in the memories of real
The brain, in conditions conducive to such phenomena occurring, is
prey to chaos. Physiological and pharmacological mechanisms are
completely disturbed, exacerbated or, conversely, diminished. Certain
studies have put forward a physiological explanation for certain
components of NDE, such as Out-of-Body Experiences, which could be
explained by dysfunctions of the temporo-parietal lobe. In this context
the study published in PLOS ONE suggests that these same
mechanisms could also could also ‘create’ a perception – which would
thus be processed by the individual as coming from the exterior – of
reality. In a kind of way their brain is lying to them, like in a
hallucination. These events being particularly surprising and especially
important from an emotional and personal perspective, the conditions
are ripe for the memory of this event being extremely detailed, precise
Numerous studies have looked into the physiological mechanisms of NDE, the production of these phenomena by the brain, but, taken separately, these two theories are incapable of explaining these experiences in their entirety. The study published in PLOS ONE does not claim to offer a unique explanation for NDE, but it contributes to study pathways which take into account psychological phenomena as factors associated with, and not contradictory to, physiological phenomena.
- Characteristics of Near-Death Experiences Memories as Compared to Real and Imagined Events Memories, PLOS ONE, http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0057620
Source: University of Liège, via AlphaGalileo.