Long after a near-death experience, people recall the incident more vividly and emotionally than real and false memories, new research suggests.
“It’s really something that stays in the mind of people as a clear trace, and it’s even more clear than a real memory,” said Vanessa Charland-Verville, a neuropsychologist in the Coma Science Group at the University of Liege in Belgium. She, along with colleagues, detailed the study online March 27 in the journal PLOS ONE.
Roughly 5 percent of the general population and 10 percent of cardiac-arrest victims report near-death experiences, yet no one really knows what they are, Charland-Verville told LiveScience.
Across cultures and religions, people describe similar themes: being out of body; passing through a tunnel, river or door toward warm, glowing light; seeing dead loved ones greet them; and being called back to their bodies or told it’s not time to go yet.
Some think near-death experiences show the spirit and body can be separated. Others say oxygen deprivation or a cascade of chemicals in the failing brain are to blame. Some believe near-death experiences reveal the existence of God or heaven. …
The findings, though fascinating, can’t answer whether the mind and body can be separated, said Christian Agrillo, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Padova in Italy who was not involved in the study.
“But it seems to suggest that what people recall in that moment is particularly genuine,” Agrillo told LiveScience. “It’s not a false memory that occurs after the event.”
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