The time of death in a hospital is normally recorded as the moment the love stops beating. This commonly implies the the rest of the body will certainly no longer receive a blood supply to sustain the cells of our organs consisting of the brain. In spite of this, several studies have shown task within the brain after ‘death’ and may raise questions as to when ‘death’ actually occurs.

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Decapitated Rats and brain Waves

A study by van Rijn in 2011 aimed to investigate whether decapitation lead to any kind of conscious suffer in the brain of awake and also anaesthetised rats. As part of the procedure, electrodes to be attached to the top of rats and EEG recordings were excellent 30 seconds prior to decapitation and for 5 minutes post-decapitation.

Pre-decapitation, awake animals exhibited consciousness and also sensory awareness. Top top decapitation, there was a sharp loss in EEG signal (power to the brain) complied with by the existence of artefacts native chewing movements a couple of seconds post-decapitation. Top top the whole, the EEG sample flat-lined in roughly 15 secs post-decapitation indicative of no sensory awareness, cognition or alertness.

However, between 50-80 seconds post-decapitation and also EEG signal decay, there was a big but sluggish wave-form top top the EEG the was observed in all rats. The writer speculate that this minute is when neurons shed their electrical ability and a vast influx the ions reasons a massive depolarisation throughout the brain synchronously in what they have dubbed a ‘wave the death’. This tide was likewise seen in one more study observing mind waves during death in patients whereby they observed this big slow wave appear near death.

This study says that all consciousness and sensory awareness is lost practically immediately after decapitation (within 10 seconds), however, neurons remain active well as much as a minute in these rats when neurons synchronously display a lose of electric activity. This suggests that bodily fatality and mind death lag considerably.


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Synapse and Neuron cells sending electric chemical signal (3D illustration) - picture Credit: Andrii Vodolazhskyi / Shutterstock

EEG Recordings of patient Undergoing Life-Support Withdrawal


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A examine by Norton et al (published in 2017) videotaped EEG task in 4 terminal patients having their life-support turn off. One of the four patients displayed brain activity well right into 10 minutes after castle were asserted clinically dead (i.e. Lack of pulse or pupillary action). This patient skilled similar mind waves regarding what is commonly seen in deep sleep. This to be in contrast to the slow fatality wave watched in the previous examine that is seen in some human being leading up to their moment of death.

Eliminating any kind of technical concerns that can have confounded the reading, as well as providing any neurological basis because that the EEG recording this so late after death, the researcher were unable to provide a reason why this patient displayed brain activity after death.

Typically, brain activity starts to fade a couple of minutes before death, and this was obvious in 3 of the four patients. But for among the four patients, persistent electrical task could it is in seen and also was not attributable to any kind of technical malfunction. This was additionally independent of the slow-moving ‘wave of death’ viewed in rats ~ decapitation, or part patients causing the moment of death. What was leading to this is tho unknown, yet provides an insight into tardy of the people even after ~ death. Go this patient have awareness throughout this time, and also is it possible that they had actually awareness after being pronounced dead? All four patients experienced distinctive EEG signatures in the frontal cortex before and also after death saying death can be a distinct experience for each person.

Revival of Dead Pig Brains

A more recent study released in Nature; which also generated media attention, was the pig brains might be restored in regards to circulation and cellular attributes hours after ~ death.

Researchers extracted brains after slaughtering because that meat and kept them in one-of-a-kind chambers. 4 hours after ~ death, a synthetic fluid (BrainEx) that mimics blood to be pumped into the brain.

BrainEx infusion 4-6 hours after fatality resulted in the re-establishing of normal cellular metabolism (i.e. Utilising glucose to create ATP) in neurons and other cells.

The structural integrity of cell remained maintained whereas regulate brains without BrainEx infusion deteriorated. Furthermore, applying electrical stimulation to extracted tissues from revitalized brains caused individual neurons firing, though not in a synchronous network fashion of combination patterns across the brain, which would resemble consciousness.

BrainEx had actually chemicals the prevented neuronal shooting to avoid neurons native firing naturally as such preventing them indigenous damage.

The writer state that if a sufficient electrical shock was applied to a revitalized brain, perhaps an ext sophisticated neural activity could restart. However, the obvious revival the cellular function is a impressive finding, and one that can have many scientific ramifications for the future.

Taken together, these studies all indicate that the mind is far more viable after death than previously thought, even without protection and preservation. The mind is able come fire electrical signals many minutes after ~ death, or also hours if preserved.

The resurgence of cellular function hours after fatality in pig brains raises exciting ethical and also philosophical questions around consciousness and life ~ clinical death. Would a revived mind with restored electrical task have self-awareness or consciousness? What would certainly that be favor without a body and also sensory input?

Could transplanting a brain into another being, or perhaps also a robot, retain and also restore cognitive role or consciousness?

We space still an extremely far native finding answer to these questions, but revitalized brains might serve as effective models for scientific research, specifically with respect to progressed neurodegenerative or neurological condition in the future. This is an emerging field with numerous uncertainties and also a lack of a legit or honest framework.

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It is also important come stress, reviving cellular duty hours after death does no equate to rebirth of consciousness, but does have far reaching ramifications for the future of clinical research, philosophy, culture and culture.