“What happens when I die?” That’s probably a question you’ve asked before, right? No matter how certain we are in our faiths and beliefs, no one can truly be certain until they go through it. Now, a team of researchers are investigating what happens to our consciousness when we die.
Researchers at Southampton University in the United Kingdom conducted a huge study, one of the largest ever, to investigate what happens to consciousness after we die. The short answer? We’re not totally sure, but consciousness does seem to linger a bit after our final breath. Your consciousness may actually begin to unravel after some time and go in separate directions. Weird, right?
Scientists spent four years examining 2,000 people who had suffered cardiac arrests at 15 hospitals in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. 40% of people who survived described a degree of awareness during the time they were dead and before they were revived.
You might call this a near death experience, but it’s entirely possible that, while their hearts weren’t beating, they also weren’t dead. From the study:
“The evidence thus far suggests that in the first few minutes after death, consciousness is not annihilated. Whether it fades away afterwards, we do not know, but right after death, consciousness is not lost. We know the brain can’t function when the heart has stopped beating. But in this case conscious awareness appears to have continued for up to three minutes into the period when the heart wasn’t beating, even though the brain typically shuts down within 20-30 seconds after the heart has stopped. This is significant, since it has often been assumed that experiences in relation to death are likely hallucinations or illusions, occurring either before the heart stops or after the heart has been successfully restarted. but not an experience corresponding with ‘real’ events when the heart isn’t beating. Furthermore, the detailed recollections of visual awareness in this case were consistent with verified events”.
Beyond this point, researchers aren’t totally sure of what happens and they don’t really understand why consciousness is able to persist after death. While largely inconclusive, it opens the door to the idea that the consciousness may persist somewhat indefinitely. Then again, maybe it fades away as our brains experience cell death. It’s hard to know for sure.