Life after death is something we fear. Whether it be someone who is religious or an atheist, the fact that we don’t know what occurs after we die is quite frightening to say the least. Some people who have near death experiences or out of body experiences have claimed to seen and experienced similar things: a bright tunnel or their lives flashing before their eyes. People who have such experiences tend to attribute that to a greater or a higher being. Scientists argue that in states of trauma (such as near death experiences) the pineal gland releases a strong psychedelic chemical known as DMT which can cause these experiences.
But what is just as confusing is the similarity between people’s experiences. Do all ‘DMT trips’ result in the same hallucinations? Or are these chemicals just a glimpse into the world beyond?
Here is what happens to your brain about 30 seconds before you die.
What separates humans from other animals is not just mere brain size, but rather the efficiency or capabilities of the human brain.
The folds or wrinkles of the human brain are what creates the superior (when compared to other animals) ‘processing power’ of the human brain. The folds allow for more surface area even in a compact space thus creating more power.
Animals such as elephants and primates have evidence of these folds in their cranium thus indicating a higher intelligence.
Dolphins in facts have more wrinkles in their brains than humans do which can explain their capacity for altruism and language.
What is important to note is that the modern human brain has actually decreased in size. Compared to our ancestors our brains have actually shrunk by approximately 10 per cent.
This does not mean that our ancestors were smarter and we have devolved into sub par beings, rather, this can be a sign that evolution is making our brains more efficient.
There are some controversies as to the origins of the huge jump in brain capacity in human history. Some anthropologists argue that the consumption of meat created this huge jump in brain capacity while others argue that it is due to social competition, the demands of ecology or climate change (or a combination of all four.)
However, researches have found relatives of the modern homo sapiens known as the Boskops that have much larger (at times 25 per cent bigger) brains and a higher brain capacity.
This would indicate that they were not only more intelligent but had advanced ‘human’ capabilities. Why these supposedly ‘supreme’ or ‘better’ beings went extinct no one truly knows.
In an interview, neurologist Brian Shaw showcased with a cadaver how the human brain functions prior to death.
He says that typically the human brain dies from the top down. (From the cerebellum or brain stem up.) The farther up from the brain stem we go, the higher or more advanced human characteristics we see.
Things such as awareness, consciousness and our individual personalities (as dictated by the frontal lobes) tends to go first. Thus, in death, it is most likely that the most human characteristics will go first.
Brian said that: ‘our sense of self, our sense of humor, 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 centers short out, until we’re left with just a core.’
This means that as our mental faculties deteriorate until what remains is our primitive mind. The ability to breathe, regulate body temperature, control cholesterol are just a few of the functions that are conducted in this primitive state.
As the brain continues to shut down, higher functions begin to fade and only basal structures (those basic requirements needed to keep you alive) remain.
These structures help keep your organs running and blood pumping, but in brain-dead situations, sometimes blood doesn’t even pump properly thus machines need to be employed in order to get the blood flowing to the right places.
As for the bright light at the end of the tunnel, Brian said that: ‘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.’
He continued by saying that: ‘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.’
As per the visions of a movie reel of your life, Brian said that the brain ‘can create a visual world around you that resembles something close to reality that isn’t reality, because you’re actually blind.’
What we’ve learned is that as the brain shuts down, the most complex components of human behavior go first and then what’s remaining is the basal, primitive structures that all animals and the first humans have.