Near death experiences have often touted as being “proof“ of the afterlife by believers. While Alzheimer’s patients clearly show that awareness deteriorates when the brain degenerates and we concluded that awareness clearly is a brain function, they claim that this awareness is fully restored, in spit of the brains condition by the fact that sometimes terminal lucidity is observed just before death.
Terminal Lucidity is described in Wikipedia as the return of mental clarity which occurs in the last minutes, hours, or days before death. This is then taken as a restoration of awareness which can enter the afterlife. This is a totally leap of faith and certainly not warranted, after all the patient. Although near death is not dead. Any anecdotal testimony of revived patients is still not proof that awareness can exist when the brain stops functioning altogether.
In non-Altzheimer’s patients, where our instruments were not sensitive enough to detect any brain function, and were declared dead, there was obvious still a spark of brain function left because they recovered and remembered dreams or hallucinations. In the case of terminal lucidity no case have been reported were the patient recovered after this phenomena and were now lucid again, so it does not change the conclusion that awareness dies when the brain does.
What then can account for terminal lucidity if the memories were destroyed in the devastated brain. In an article (Elsevier, June 25, 2011)“Terminal lucidity: A review and case collection by Michael Nahm, Bruce Grey, Emily William Kelly and Erlendur Haraldson of the Department of Psychology, University of Ireland, they took a new look at old cases in the literature to try and find the mechanism in the brain which could account for such a phenomenon in the hope that it could lead to the development of new therapies.
Michael Nahm PhD and Bruce Greyson MD subsequently wrote a paper titled:” Terminal Lucidity in Patients with Chronic Schizophrenia and Dementia”. Terminal lucidity has not only been reported in most countries of the world but also has been reported in History by Cicero, Plutarch, Hippocrates and others. It was also noticed that The lucidity may improve when death is near. Although there is a great variation, it is always a return of long lost mental capacity.
The study of this phenomenon is closely connected to actual brain function and not connected to a supernatural cause. Slowly some answers are emerging and they point to the fact that memories might not have been destroyed but have still been preserved somewhere in the brain. The mechanism might be related to people with brain injuries who have lost the ability to recall their past permanently, while some have the memories return after a short or long time. It is now suspected that the memories are not destroyed but that the access to these memories is impaired and that it. In some cases is a reversible process. Since the lucidity is sometime remarkable it is quite limited in other cases. This suggests that the memory can still be damaged but not entirely deleted.
It is becoming clearer and clearer in Neuro research that awareness dies when the brain actually stops functioning completely and no one has returned from actual death to report on their “experience” in the non-existing afterlife.