By Dale Bredesen, M.D., Chief Science Officer for Apollo Health

There has been an increasing interest recently in the phenomena of near-death experiences (NDEs). These may occur due to a cardiac arrest with successful resuscitation, or an accident, or near drowning, or something else — anything that brings one of us to a transient clinical death (cardiac arrest) or near death. In one particularly well-documented case, a patient with a large basilar aneurysm underwent surgery that required draining her blood (to shrink the large aneurysm), severe hypothermia, stopping her heart, flatlining her EEG for over an hour, and then bringing her back from what was literally an inanimate object on the operating table. Yet she told a remarkably accurate story when she awoke — she watched the entire operation, described the instruments used (which she had never seen), even described the exact tone made by the drill (she had perfect pitch), as well as describing where all of the team members had stood and what they had said.

Ongoing neurological research has suggested that these NDEs may be dream-like experiences mediated by brain activity akin to REM, but of course that would not explain the ability to describe events that occurred while the brain was not functioning. Whatever the mechanism, such NDEs often lead to life-changing attitudes: reconsideration of life paths, loss of anger and irritation, and an end to the fear of death, among other effects.

We have been hearing similar life-changing attitudes repeatedly from those who have returned from cognitive decline: going back to graduate school, founding a new school, collecting jokes, enjoying life like never before, enjoying grandchildren without worries once again, taking on new projects, and simply enjoying family once again. Many are helping others in need to achieve the results they themselves achieved (a special thank you to Julie, Judy, Lucy, Frank, and everyone who is helping others to do what you did!).

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