Final Thoughts — Literally

Have you ever heard someone who has had a near-death experience say “My whole life flashed before my eyes?”

That person may have been right. In 2016, researchers were giving an 87-year-old Canadian man who had epilepsy an electroencephalogram (EEG) — a test that detects abnormalities in the brain’s electrical activity — to study his seizures. Unexpectedly during the test, the man suffered a sudden, fatal heart attack. The patient’s death meant the team had made the first-ever recording of a dying brain. 

The data showed that during the 30 seconds before and after the man’s heart stopped, his brain waves were very similar to those seen during dreaming, memory recall and meditation. The logical hypothesis is that people may actually be seeing their life replayed when they die.

Of course, this was only one data point and much more research is needed. Remember, this man was elderly and had epilepsy, which means his brain activity during death could be very different from someone without his condition. Also, there is no way to know if the man was actually perceiving past memories or if he was just in a dream-like state caused by a failing nervous system. 

Still, it will be interesting to see if more recordings of brain activity during death can be made, and what patterns they show. 

For more detail, see “First-ever Scan of a Dying Human Brain Reveals Life May Actually ‘Flash Before Your Eyes'” by Harry Baker ( The case report was published online Feb. 22 in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

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