If you’re pondering the nature of human consciousness, like we are, we recommend first tuning into Terry Gross’s interview with Dr. Sam Parnia, critical-care physician at Stony Brook University School of Medicine and author of Erasing Death: The Science that Is Rewriting the Boundaries Between Life and Death. Gross explains that resuscitation medicine is “now sometimes capable of reviving people after their hearts have stopped beating and their brains have flat lined. And some of those people report being conscious during the period after their heart stopped, before they’ve been restarted.”
His research has one main goal: to continually improve cardiac arrest care. But what it has revealed, as well, are patients who report that they’ve been brought back from the other side of death. Parnia says regardless of whether these experiences are psychological phenomena or if they, in fact, happen, these occurrences have been reported often enough that they deserve further study.
If your interest is piqued, listen next to accounts from pilots who have experienced G-LOC, or gravity-induced loss of consciousness. For some, this has delivered them up to an experience of being outside of their own bodies, actually watching themselves from a location outside of their physical frame.
And if you’d like to ponder these questions in an even broader context, read about “the scientific and philosophical consensus” that says, “there is no nonphysical soul or ego, or at least no evidence for that.” No wonder David Chalmers termed consciousness “the hard problem”—and that label has stuck.
The relationship between our brain, our mind, and our body is a dazzling conundrum. Could understanding more about what happens as we die bring us greater insight into this question, too?