Out-of-body Experiences or Hallucinations?



Photo courtesy of http://www.scienceagogo.com

A few years ago, I read an article about a boy who, while in the hospital barely escaping death, experienced something strange.  In the article he explained that he was surrounded by white as far as the eye could see, and in front of him was a talkative Kanye West who decided to rap with the boy.  Now when I first saw this I thought it was quite funny.  Then I thought to myself, what if this was actually real?  Do people actually consciously know what’s going on around them when they are lying on what may be their death beds?  Dr Sam Parnia, Director of Resuscitation Research at The State University of New York tried to find out.

The AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation) study took patients who survived cardiac arrest from 15 different hospitals in the United Kingdom, United States, and Austria and conducted in depth interviews with them.  The study found that 39 percent of participants were able to describe a feeling of awareness, but couldn’t really remember more than that.  Parnia explained that this observation suggests that, “more people may have mental activity initially but then lose their memories after recovery, either due to the effects of brain injury or sedative drugs on memory recall (Near).”

Those patients that said they experienced a feeling of awareness were then taken into a second interview where they reported 46 percent of people experienced many mental recollections in relation to death.  Some of the experiences included a feeling of fear and persecution.  9 percent of individuals experienced something similar to a near death experience, while only 2 percent were compatible with an out-of-body experience (Near).

Parnia concluded with the statement that, “while it was not possible to absolutely prove the reality or meaning of patients’ experiences and claims of awareness, due to the very low incidence [2 percent] of explicit recall of visual awareness or so called OBEs, it was impossible to disclaim them either and more work is needed in this area (Near).”

I completely agree with him.  Because it is an observational study, nothing is proven.  There is also the possibility of chance, and the survey set up could introduce response bias.  Reverse causation is ruled out, but confounding variables aren’t.  They didn’t conduct tests on the individuals mental state before entering the hospital, and they ended up interviewing right after they were released from the hospital and probably not feeling the greatest which may have an effect on their answers.

In conclusion I completely agree with Parnia that there is much research left to do on this topic, but if conducted correctly could open many doors for the future.

Works Cited:

“Near-death Experiences: New Study Finds Evidence to Back Anecdotal Claims.” Near-death Experiences: New Study Finds Evidence to Back Anecdotal Claims. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2014. <http://www.scienceagogo.com/news/20140907193505.shtml>.

1 thought on “Out-of-body Experiences or Hallucinations?

  1. Kelsie Emma Ahern

    I’m glad you mentioned the possibility of confounding variables because the patients’ mentals states were not evaluated and were interviewed right after leaving the hospital. I’ve always wondering if people who have a crazy accident and “see the light” or “see heaven” are just faking what they saw for attention or are simply just putting together pieces to fit what they think should’ve happened or if they indeed were actually having an out of body experience. Great post!

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