Neurosurgeon recounts near-death experience:
Eben Alexander was your typical neurosurgeon. A firm believer of scientific reductionism, he thought that all thoughts originate from the brain. But this changed in 2008 when he encountered a case of near-death experience (NDE). As much as it was the complete opposite of his previous views, he couldn’t dismiss or avoid the case—it was none other than his own experience, and he had to face it and search for an explanation. Having contracted acute bacterial meningitis, which damages the neocortex—the part of the brain that is thought to involve complex cognitive functions like conscious thought—Alexander went into a coma and spent six days on a ventilator. The chance of survival was very slim, and less so was the possibility of recovering fully. The normal glucose levels in a human’s cerebrospinal fluid are between 60 and 80 mg/dl (milligram per one-tenth of a liter), and the meningitis infection is considered severe when the level drops to 20 mg/dl. But the glucose level of Alexander’s cerebrospinal fluid was at 1 mg/dl, making it impossible for his brain to function.
However, during the time when he was in coma, Alexander encountered vivid experiences involving multiple senses, such as vision, hearing, and smell. He said that he couldn’t describe how amazing it was. “What happened deep in coma was absolutely stunning,” Alexander said during an interview. “The whole situation seems to be much more real than our earthly life, and the sensory modalities were very strange because they were, you know, when I was remembering all this and trying to write it down, a lot of the kind of auditory and visual things that we would normally think of as things that we see or hear, were all kind of blended together.” For example, he “saw” a beautiful melody appearing as colors in front of him, and he remembered gold and silver arcs of lights as transparent arcs of energy that he perceived as sounds. “To compare it with sitting here and talking on the phone or working on my computer, it was much, much more real, very rich, and as if I were truly being alive for the first time,” Alexander said. “It was really amazing.” “My brain right now—I think it recovered pretty well—could not do anything close to what my brain was doing deep in coma,” Alexander said in this year’s International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) conference. “How does a dying brain end up getting far, far more powerful and able to handle these tremendous loads of information instantaneously and put it altogether?”
HT Twitter’s most awesome resident, @catvincent