Annals of Tropical Medicine and Public Health
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REVIEW ARTICLE
Year : 2013  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 151-165

Is there science behind the near-death experience: Does human consciousness survives after death?


Department of Pathology, School of Tropical Medicine, 108, C. R. Avenue; Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Correspondence Address:
Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya
Department of Pathology, School of Tropical Medicine, 108, C. R. Avenue; Kolkata, West Bengal
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/1755-6783.116491

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Near death experiences (NDEs) have been reported throughout world in essentially all cultures, including amongst the believers of the Hindu religion The contents of NDEs are independent of the gender, age, profession, religion, belief of soul, belief in angels of death or ghosts and belief in death kingdom and heaven, of people who experienced it. The frequency of occurrence is estimated to be between 5% to 48% in adults, and around 85% in children who experienced near-death situations. This frequency may be higher still, perhaps even 100 percent, were it not for the dreamlike and dissociative character of these experiences, and the amnesia-prone participation of the temporal lobe cortex of brain, causing a clear tendency to forget the NDE. A number of experiences can be very similar to NDEs, such as review of one's life in this planet, or an out-of-body experience (OBE,) in which the physical body and its surroundings are observed from various external vantage points, often from above, such that the body is passing through a deep dark tunnel, or seeing flash of light equal to thousands of sun for pure souls. The experience of seeing God and conversing with him, seeing alien lands, seeing dead relatives or someone's future, can all be regarded as similar in nature. Many individuals have reported horror experiences as well. Numerous cases-are existing in which the reality of the the OBE-observation can be independently 'verified, by external conditions, situations, people, objects, etc. Even people who are non-religious, subsequent to NDE experiences have displayed a markedly decreased fear of death, and a corresponding increase in the belief in "life after death" and re-incarnation. Certain elements of NDE- experiences can be induced by drugs, such as hallucinogenic substances and anesthetic drugs like ketamine, and electrical stimulation of the right temporal lobe or the limbic system has also produced such effects. The possibility that the hallucinogenic transmitters (and endorphins) of the brain themselves play a role in the NDE has been postulated. Nevertheless, there are NDE-elements, such as the frequently reported quick life-reviews, and the acquisition of external, verifiable information about the physical surroundings, that cannot be explained. Wish-fulfillment, death-denial or fighting against death, and other defense mechanisms of the brain, are also not adequate explanations. The large body of NDE data now points to genuine evidence for a non-physical reality. The paranormal capacities of the human being also raises the question: Does the human soul exist?


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