Yes, Life Might Actually Flash Before Your Eyes When You Die
Life is full of fleeting moments that create memories. Now, new research from a scientific "accident" suggests that life might actually, truly "flash before your eyes" when you die.
Many of us have heard the common phrase "my life flashed before my eyes" when someone recalls a near-death experience. Unfortunately, the study of the shared phenomena was previously deemed medically unethical.
However, a team of scientists measuring the brainwaves of an 87-year-old patient with epilepsy unveiled some surprising data when the patient suddenly experienced a fatal heart attack while being examined.
The unexpected event now serves as the first medical recording of a "dying brain."
According to BBC, the recorded research revealed that for 30 seconds prior to and 30 seconds following the man's death, the patient's brainwaves followed similar patterns to those that appear when we are dreaming or recalling memories.
Scientists now believe this sort of brain activity might prove that a final "recall of life" occurs in a person's last moments.
"This was actually totally by chance. We did not plan to do this experiment or record these signals," Dr. Ajmal Zemmar, a neurosurgeon at the University of Louisville and co-author of the study published by Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, told BBC.
Dr. Zemmar said the brainwaves he observed might be "a last recall of memories that we've experienced in life, and they replay through our brain in the last seconds before we die."
While the new study explores the idea that our brains give us a final flashback, it also raises questions on "when, exactly, life ends."
In the case of the 87-year-old patient, for example, his heart stopped beating 30 seconds before his brain stopped functioning.
However, according to BBC, Dr. Zemmar and his team warn that conclusions should not be drawn from just one study, and that patient-related complications, such as epilepsy, need to be considered.
In 2013, researchers studied the brainwaves of healthy rats and discovered high levels of brain activity for up to 30 seconds after the rats' heartbeats stopped.
Dr. Zemmar told BBC that the similarities between the rat studies and his findings are "astonishing."
"I think there's something mystical and spiritual about this whole near-death experience. And findings like this — it's a moment that scientists live for," he shared.
And while it's impossible to tell what kind of moments or memories are specifically recalled during a person's final moments, Dr. Zemmar speculates that "if the brain did a flashback, it would probably like to remind you of good things, rather than the bad things. But what's memorable would be different for every person."