Consciousness after death

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This article is about the neuroscience of consciousness and death. For beliefs about life after death, see Afterlife.
Śmierć ("Death"), a 1902 painting by Jacek Malczewski

Consciousness after death is a common theme in society and culture in the context of life after death. Scientific research has established that the mind and consciousness are closely connected with the physiological functioning of the brain, the cessation of which defines brain death. However, many people believe in some form of life after death, which is a feature of many religions.

Neuroscience[edit]

Neuroscience is a large interdisciplinary field founded on the premise that all of behavior and all of the cognitive processes that constitute the mind have their origin in the structure and function of the nervous system, especially in the brain. According to this view, the mind can be regarded as a set of operations carried out by the brain.[1][2][3][4][5]

There are some lines of evidence that slightly point so far. They are here briefly summarized along with some examples.

  • Neuroanatomical correlates: In the field of neuroimaging, neuroscientists can use various functional neuroimaging methods to measure an aspect of brain function that correlates with a particular mental state or process.
  • Experimental manipulations: Neuroimaging (correlational) studies cannot determine whether neural activity plays a causal role in the occurrence of mental processes (correlation does not imply causation) and they cannot determine if the neural activity is either necessary or sufficient for such processes to occur. Identification of causation and necessary and sufficient conditions requires explicit experimental manipulation of that activity. If manipulation of brain activity changes consciousness, then a causal role for that brain activity can be inferred.[6][7] Two of the most common types of manipulation experiments are loss-of-function and gain-of-function experiments. In a loss-of-function (also called "necessity") experiment, a part of the nervous system is diminished or removed in an attempt to determine if it is necessary for a certain process to occur, and in a gain-of-function (also called "sufficiency") experiment, an aspect of the nervous system is increased relative to normal.[8] Manipulations of brain activity can be performed in several ways:
Pharmacological manipulation using various drugs which alter neural activity by interfering with neurotransmission, resulting in alterations in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, and behavior. Psychoactive drugs are divided into different groups according to their pharmacological effects; euphoriants which tend to induce feelings of euphoria, stimulants that induce temporary improvements in either mental or physical functions, depressants that depress or reduce arousal or stimulation and hallucinogens which can cause hallucinations, perception anomalies, and other substantial subjective changes in thoughts, emotion, and consciousness.
Electrical and magnetical stimulations using various electrical methods and techniques like transcranial magnetic stimulation. In a comprehensive review of electrical brain stimulation (EBS) results obtained from the last 100 years neuroscientist Aslihan Selimbeyoglu and neurologist Josef Parvizi compiled a list of many different subjective experiential phenomena and behavioral changes that can be caused by electrical stimulation of the cerebral cortex or subcortical nuclei in awake and conscious human subjects.[9]
Optogenetic manipulation where light is used to control neurons which have been genetically sensitised to light.

Death[edit]

Main article: Death

Death was once defined as the cessation of heartbeat (cardiac arrest) and of breathing, but the development of CPR and prompt defibrillation have rendered that definition inadequate because breathing and heartbeat can sometimes be restarted. Events that were causally linked to death in the past no longer kill in all circumstances; without a functioning heart or lungs, life can sometimes be sustained with a combination of life support devices, organ transplants and artificial pacemakers.

It may also be suggested that it is not possible for oneself or one's consciousness to know, understand, define, or conclude that oneself is already dead, especially when volition and perception - as well as speech and action are generally accepted as integral and a prerequisite of knowledge and thought, hence death in an absolute sense is usually declared by a second party other than the deceased[citation needed]. Today, where a definition of the moment of death is required, doctors and coroners usually turn to "brain death" or "biological death" to define a person as being dead; brain death being defined as the complete and irreversible loss of brain function (including involuntary activity necessary to sustain life).[15][16][17][18]

According to the current neuroscientific view, consciousness fails to survive brain death and, along with all other mental functions, is irrecoverably lost.[19]

Near-death experiences (NDEs)[edit]

A near-death experience (NDE) is a personal experience associated with impending death, encompassing multiple possible sensations. Research from neuroscience considers the NDE to be a hallucinatory state caused by various neurological factors such as cerebral anoxia, hypercarbia, abnormal activity in the temporal lobes and brain damage.[20]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kandel, ER; Schwartz JH; Jessell TM; Siegelbaum SA; Hudspeth AJ. "Principles of Neural Science, Fifth Edition" (2012).
  2. ^ Squire, L. et al. "Fundamental Neuroscience, 4th edition" (2012).
  3. ^ O. Carter Snead. "Neuroimaging and the "Complexity" of Capital Punishment" (2007).
  4. ^ Eric R. Kandel, M.D. "A New Intellectual Framework for Psychiatry" (1998).
  5. ^ "Neuroscience Core Concepts: The Essential Principles of Neuroscience". BrainFacts.org: Explore the Brain and Mind. 
  6. ^ Farah, Martha J.; Murphy, Nancey (February 2009). "Neuroscience and the Soul". Science. 323 (5918): 1168. doi:10.1126/science.323.5918.1168a. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  7. ^ Max Velmans, Susan Schneider. "The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness" (2008). p. 560.
  8. ^ Matt Carter, Jennifer C. Shieh. "Guide to Research Techniques in Neuroscience" (2009).
  9. ^ Aslihan Selimbeyoglu, Josef Parvizi. "Electrical stimulation of the human brain: perceptual and behavioral phenomena reported in the old and new literature" (2010). Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
  10. ^ "Severe TBI Symptoms"
  11. ^ "Symptoms of Brain Injury"
  12. ^ "Cognitive Development and Aging: A Life Span Perspective"
  13. ^ "Adolescent Brains Are A Work In Progress"
  14. ^ "Blossoming brains"
  15. ^ "Brain death". Encyclopedia of Death and Dying. Retrieved 25 March 2014. 
  16. ^ Young, G Bryan. "Diagnosis of brain death". UpToDate. Retrieved 25 March 2014. 
  17. ^ Goila, A.; Pawar, M. (2009). "The diagnosis of brain death". Indian Journal of Critical Care Medicine. 13 (1): 7–11. doi:10.4103/0972-5229.53108. PMC 2772257Freely accessible. PMID 19881172. 
  18. ^ Machado, C. (2010). "Diagnosis of brain death". Neurology International. 2: 2. doi:10.4081/ni.2010.e2. 
  19. ^ Laureys, Steven; Tononi, Giulio. (2009). The Neurology of Consciousness: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropathology. Academic Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-12-374168-4
  20. ^ Olaf Blanke, Sebastian Dieguez. "Leaving Body and Life Behind: Out-of-Body and Near-Death Experience" (2009).

Further reading[edit]