What happens to the brain at death?

We are part of the universe. And maybe these were by chance. All living organisms on earth have evolved over billions of years. The crown of evolution – the human brain – made it possible to understand a little about the structure of the universe and the outside world. Using the latest astronomical instruments, we were able to look into the past and see the birth of the universe – the Big Bang. So, with the help of scientific advances, we learned that even in the vast expanses of space, there is nothing eternal. The death of the stars allows new luminaires to be born. Even these distant space objects have their beginning and end. Life and death. And no matter how we strive to discover the source of eternal youth, every person, every living being born on our planet will one day die. But what do we know about death?

What awaits us after death?

Death is inevitable

While some scientists try to understand how life originated on earth, others intend to find out what death is. Rituals associated with death appeared long before modern civilization, and our distant (and not so) ancestors encountered it all the time. But we, unlike our ancestors, do not often see death – several generations grew up in relative prosperity and saw death only in hospitals and on television screens.

The standard of living of modern Homo sapiens has increased significantly, and scientific and technological advances have made it possible to live to a mature age, for the first time in our history. The end of the 20th century (as Agent Smith referred to in The Matrix 1) was probably the best period in human history.

The Matrix has you

But no matter how hard we try, no matter how much we look for a “pill for old age”, we will still die. And it is not easy to realize this fact. The grief we experience after the death of a loved one causes our psyche to defend itself: certain rituals that are inherent in the culture to which we belong help to cope with the loss.

Болше по теме: Смерть домашнего животного может причинить больше страданий, чем потеря друга или близкого родственника

Unfortunately, science cannot answer the question of whether there is a life after this. Instead, researchers look for the cause of death and record exactly how the death process works. And if we start from the fact that we are our brain that creates consciousness, then what happens inside it when the heart stops beating?

How and when does the brain die?

To begin with, brain death is not a new concept. The first clinical definition of brain death was published in 1968, and its basic principles are still widely applied.

Brain death is diagnosed when the patient’s pupils do not respond to light, and he himself can not breathe on his own (without regaining consciousness), experts believe.

If coma and absence of brainstem reflexes are confirmed, the last step is an apnea test (stopping breathing) – to temporarily disconnect the patient from the ventilator and observe spontaneous breathing. If no respiration is observed after 10 minutes, and the level of carbon dioxide in the blood is elevated, the patient is diagnosed with death.

The brain is the most complex and least understood organ in the human body.

But different medical institutions have different criteria for brain death. In fact, the neurological definition of brain death is a complex assessment that can be misinterpreted by non-specialists, and therefore requires special care. But how do you explain the near-death experience that so many people have?

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The brain and the near-death experience

Some clarity on brain death issues was created by electroencephalography (EEG) – a test that detects abnormalities in the brain’s electrical activity, which shows an increase in electrical activity after cardiac arrest. This, according to some researchers, indicates it reason is the last sign of life before they fall into eternal oblivion.

So-called near-death experiences occur in life-threatening situations, such as heart attack, shock or injury (an explosion or a fall from a height). In addition, many near-death patients have a lot in common: getting rid of pain, seeing a bright light at the end of a tunnel, separating from their body and even flying into space.

Death is an integral part of life

Recently, it became known about the results of an extremely interesting study – it turned out that the electrical activity in the brain continues for 30 seconds after the heart stops. In 2016, when they studied the brain activity of an 87-year-old patient with epilepsy using an EEG, the team made a sudden discovery when the patient died during the procedure.

Электроэнцефалограмма (ЭЭГ) – устройство для мониторинга мозговых волн, прикрепленное к коже головы пациента.

life before your eyes

The heart attack that took the patient’s life was the first of its kind to register a dying brain. This made it possible for the researchers to see how the nerve oscillations – repetitive patterns of neural activity (brain waves) – changed when the man died. The results showed that an unusual change in brainwave activity occurred 30 seconds before and after cardiac arrest.

Our study has for the first time shown that brain wave oscillations exist in the dying human brain. This may explain what we call near-death experiences, say the authors of the scientific work.

Some NDEs have reported the phenomenon of playing memories. The new study is the first scientific evidence that this “outbreak” can be real. However, as this is the only study of its kind, it is not yet possible to make further assumptions about how common this phenomenon may be.

If we are our brain, then everything ends with the last beat of the heart

Also, there is no way to know if this patient actually saw memories from the past, or if he was simply in a dream-like state caused by his weakened nervous system.

Не пропустите: Тайны мозга: действительно ли перед смертью нас ждет эйфория?

Euphoria – what will our death look like?

Previous experiments on rats have shown that rodents also experience similar levels of electrical fluctuations at the time of death. This is another reason why memories of life can be a universal experience shared by most dying mammals.

At the same time, the authors of the study received a lot of feedback from around the world – the work, published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Science, attracted international attention. And while researchers can say with certainty that the observed brainwave patterns are associated with memories, they hope the discovery will provide some comfort to those who are losing loved ones.

While our loved ones close their eyes and leave us, their brains can play some of the most enjoyable moments they have experienced in their lives, the researchers said in a statement.

Our life is a moment compared to the universe

It is also interesting that the very moment of death can be the happiest moment in our entire life. Of course, the actual moment of death is difficult to decipher, but some research suggests that as death approaches, there may be a release of endorphins and other chemicals.

For example, according to a 2011 study, levels of serotonin, another chemical believed to contribute to feelings of happiness, tripled in the brains of six laboratory rats before they died. We can not rule out the possibility that something similar could happen to humans. And while more data and research are needed, the pain generally seems to go away when we die.

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Life, death and the mysteries of the universe

And yet, each of us deals with death in our own way. Many believe that death is not the end. Maybe they’m right: after all, the atoms that make up everything around us, including us, appeared as a result of the deaths of supernovae. All the chemical elements necessary for life are thrown into outer space from the red-hot nuclei of these celestial bodies. In a way, you and I are stardust.

But what if the multiverse really exists? Could it be that when we die in one of them, we wake up in another? Of course, this is a very controversial assumption. But the main thing is that the structure of the universe at the micro level theoretically allows us to assume that death as such does not exist at all. My colleague Ramis Ganiev spoke earlier in more detail about this point of view, I recommend reading it.

Billy Pilgrim travels through time and space

As for me, I was helped to deal with the loss of loved ones and thoughts of my own death, the ideas outlined by science fiction writer Kurt Vonnegut. In his most famous work, Slaughterhouse Five or the Children’s Crusade, Vonnegut tells the story of a man kidnapped by the inhabitants of the planet Tralfamodor.

«Бойня номер пять, или Крестовый поход детей» — автобиографический роман Курта Воннегута о бомбардировке Дрездена во время Второй мировой войны.

These strange creatures told Billy that death does not exist. This is because tralamabadorians see the present, the past and the future at the same time. Here is what the main character says about them:

The most important thing I learned at Tralfamadore is that when a person dies, it only works for us. He’s still living in the past, so it’s very stupid to cry at his funeral. All moments past, present and future have always existed and will always exist.

Tralfamadorians can see different moments in the same way we can see the whole chain of Rocky Mountains. They see how all these moments are permanent and can consider the moment that interests them now. Only we on earth have the illusion that the moments go one after the other, like pearls on a string, and that if a moment has passed, it has passed irreversibly.

When a Tralfamadorian sees a dead body, he thinks that this person is only in bad shape at the moment, but he feels pretty good in many other moments. Now, when I hear that someone has died, I just shrug my shoulders and say, as the tralfamadorians themselves say about the dead: “Such things”

In a word, nothing lasts forever in the greatness of the universe. What do you think happens to the brain when we die? We are waiting for the answer here, as well as in the comments to this article. Then it goes.

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