Brain activity seen in patient ten minutes after death

(Collective Evolution | Alexa Erickson) Science is a miraculous subject, as anyone in the field will likely tell you. The once impossible is proven over and over again by researchers to be a reality, revealing just how infinite the possibilities of discovery and enhancement in the field truly are.

Recently, a study presented some astonishing results, finding brain activity in a patient up to 10 minutes after their life support was turned off.

Though they were clinically dead, meaning their heart registered no activity on an electrocardiograph (ECG) monitor, presenting a flatline, the surprising study found electrical activity in the brain after their heart had flatlined, and other indicators of clinical death were present, too.

The study, led by the University of Western Ontario in Canada and published in the Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, found activity in the form of a burst of delta waves, which are associated with deep sleep, suggesting to researchers that each individual may experience death uniquely.

For their work, the researchers examined the electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings from four patients. Such a test is meant to determine brain activity.

Patients are generally considered dead when they flatline, which is traditionally when the time of death is announced. However, the study found that, while EEG activity had ceased for three of the four patients before their ECG flatline, it did not do so for one of the patients. This patient experienced the aforementioned burst of delta waves a whopping 10 minutes after they flatlined. The researchers were perplexed, and have not ruled out equipment malfunction, despite finding none as of yet.

“It is difficult to posit a physiological basis for this EEG activity given that it occurs after a prolonged loss of circulation,” the researchers said. “These waveform bursts could, therefore, be artefactual in nature, although an artefactual source could not be identified.”

The researchers noted that there was no evidence of a “death-wave,” either. This is when a surge in brain activity comes about mere moments before death. But the study found no such link regarding the moment a patient’s heart stopped beating and their EEG recordings.

Such findings may create issues for organ donation, with the researchers noting that there is potential for “medical, ethical, and legal concerns,” since death is currently being determined by circulation.

Other factors to take into consideration include the study’s minute sample size and the fact that all of the patients were extremely ill and taking heavy sedatives.

Nonetheless, the findings raise interesting questions, and may, one day, bring forth new theories on death.

Source: Collective Evolution

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