When You Die, You Know You’re Dead: The Mind Still Works, Say Scientists


When it comes to what happens to us when we die, we all have different beliefs based on our faith, personal experiences and scientific education.

Still, even the most learned scientists don’t really know for sure, which is why a 2013 study was done that monitored the brain activity of laboratory rats immediately following induced cardiac arrest, resulting in clinical death.

In other words, the rats were dead, but their brains continued to work, in a hyper-alert state.

So, what does that mean as far as humans are concerned? Some believe that just like the rats studied by researchers, our brain continues to function after the rest of our body dies. To some, that sounds hopeful, possibly pointing to life after death. To others, it sounds completely terrifying knowing that you’re dead.

Clinical death. You’ve probably heard of people who have clinically died and were successfully resuscitated. Take, for example, people who suddenly overdose and go into cardiac arrest. If your heart stops beating, it is possible to clinically die and be brought back thanks to modern medicine.

Similar experiences. Many who have clinically died and been revived have reported similar experiences. Typically, a tunnel of white light is described.

The vision of white light. Visions of white light don’t sound too scary; they sound welcoming and comforting. How could this be explained from a scientific perspective?

Neurons. Some suggest that the so-called white lights people see are actually just neurons firing immediately before clinical death. Rather than seeing the gates of heaven opening up, people’s brains are going into overdrive as the body shuts down.

Sleep paralysis. For many people, the idea of being consciously aware of one’s own death is nothing short of a nightmare. Think of the terror of sleep paralysis. Perhaps even more accurate is the stories we hear of patients who are put in a state of twilight sleep during surgery and can still hear, see and feel what’s happening to them, but are powerless to do anything about it.

Near death experiences. Of course, there are some who have claimed that near-death experiences have given them a sense of spiritual enlightenment. Also known as out-of-body experiences or astral projection, some have described the phenomenon of being outside one’s own body and looking down on it as if floating from above.

2-20 seconds. As far as the rats go, there was a period of 2-20 seconds following clinical death during which brain activity was observed. All brain activity eventually stops when brain death occurs.

Some argue it’s not really brain activity. Some argue that it’s not true brain activity that the researchers are observing. Rather, it’s more of a reflexive twitching of muscles.

Is there a soul? Whether or not we have souls depends largely upon your personal beliefs. To some, our souls represent an overarching collective unconsciousness.

What we think, what we know, what we hope and what we can prove. The bottom line is that no one really knows what happens to us when we die. No matter how enlightened, how educated you are, you never really know until it happens to you. This study certainly is interesting, though, and has given us something to think about. We’d personally prefer to do the majority of our thinking before death, not after.