THE first ever recording of a dying brain has revealed we might relive some of our best memories in our last moments.
Scientists accidentally captured our most complex organ as it shut down, showing an astonishing snapshot into death.
A patient was being treated for epilepsy, hooked up to an electroencephalogram (EEG).
The 87-year-old man’s brain activity was being measured when he suddenly had a heart attack and died.
This meant the 15 minutes around his death was recorded on the EEG.
In the 30 seconds either side of the patient’s final heartbeat, an increase in very specific brain waves were spotted.
These waves, known as gamma oscillations, are linked to things like memory retrieval, meditation and dreaming.
This could mean – although many more studies would need to take place – we might see a sort of film reel of our best memories.
Or we could enter a peaceful dreamlike state in our final moments that has a response in our brain akin to meditation.
As our bodies shut down, our brains could still be working hard in a concerted effort to deliver it’s final task.
Dr Ajmal Zemmar, a neurosurgeon at the University of LouisvilleZemmar, who organised the study, said: “Through generating oscillations involved in memory retrieval, the brain may be playing a last recall of important life events just before we die, similar to the ones reported in near-death experiences.
“These findings challenge our understanding of when exactly life ends and generate important subsequent questions, such as those related to the timing of organ donation.”
Similar brainwave changes have been seen in rats at the time of death, but never in humans before.
The study, published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, said: “our data provide the first evidence from the dying human brain in a non-experimental, real-life acute care clinical setting and advocate that the human brain may possess the capability to generate coordinated activity during the near-death period.
This is just one single case study, with a brain that had already been injured due to the epilepsy, but might pave the wave for a greater understanding about what happens to us when we die.
But, Dr Zemmar added: “Something we may learn from this research is: although our loved ones have their eyes closed and are ready to leave us to rest, their brains may be replaying some of the nicest moments they experienced in their lives.”
Last year we shared what happens to your body after you die.
Discussing dying is a taboo subject, but knowing what the biological elements are and why they happen can make it less scary.
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