It’s one of those experiences that is almost impossible to understand or re-create, but this neurologist dissected a woman’s brain to shed light on the mystery of what happens in the 30 seconds before you die.
There are the numerous rumours that you see a white light, or have an out of body experience, but the truth of it can be explained by science.
VICE described the body as a machine, and the Dr Cameron Shaw explained the workings of that machine and how the brain ‘tends to die from the top down, claiming our most human characteristics first’.
What happens in the brain right before you die? Julian Morgans dissects a human brain to find out:
Dr Cameron Shaw said in the video with VICE:
Our sense of self, our sense of humour, our ability to think ahead — that stuff all goes within the first 10 to 20 seconds.
Then, as the wave of blood-starved brain cells spread out, our memories and language centres short out, until we’re left with just a core.
When asked about the white light at the end of the tunnel, Shaw explained tunnel vision is a common side effect of losing blood supply to the brain.
We know from experience tunnel vision emerges abruptly when you suddenly lose blood supply to the brain.
The first thing you notice in fainting is the narrowing of vision, followed by blackness.
You could argue that’s the way in which death would progress as well because the same mechanisms are in place and it’s an interruption of blood flow to the brain.
So many people experience ‘out of body’ feelings when near death or undergoing surgery, and it turns out this is a trick of the mind.
Shaw told VICE of how the brain ‘can create a visual world around you that resembles something close to reality that isn’t reality, because you’re actually blind’.
Research on people who have had near death experiences has shown life does flash before their eyes in a way – those people explained there were often intense flashbacks from memory.
There is also a controversial theory that the psychadaelic drug DMT is released in large amounts from the pineal gland during death’s approach, so that could make you see a lot of things.