Saturday, 1 December 2012

True or False #5: Lack of oxygen to the brain causes Near Death Experience

John Corder is the author of The Trial of Poppy Moon, a legal, medical, race-against-time thriller based on Near Death Experience. It’s available on

Watch the book trailer:

False:  A view commonly held by some is that lack of oxygen is the cause of near death experiences. The idea being that, during its final moments of life, the dying brain enacts its best-loved hopes and fantasies. There are several problems with this. The brain does not exist on a reservoir of oxygen, with performance slowly degrading as it runs out. It needs a continuous, well-oxygenated supply and when that stops, everything stops. In fact, total shutdown takes just three seconds, after which there is no brain activity available to access these hopes and fantasies.

Some have also believed the opposite to be the cause. Namely, rather than a lack of oxygen (anoxia), NDE and OBE is caused by an excess of carbon dioxide (hypercarbia), both now proven wrong in spectacular fashion. They were resuscitating a man who had suffered both a heart attack and a cardiac arrest. During this the process, the man was having an Out of Body Experience. He saw them take a sample of blood from his groin. An analysis of the blood shown that not only was there a higher than normal level of oxygen in his blood (quite normal during resuscitation), but there was a much lower level of carbon dioxide (also quite normal under the circumstances).

Note: If you’re thinking, does that mean that when they executed someone on the guillotine, that the severed head was conscious for about three seconds, the answer is that yes it most probably does. The word probably is there because it’s not sure what the effect would be of zero blood pressure in a head with no body. It might reduce the three seconds a bit.



  1. Wait, you said the the head would be conscious for three seconds?? I think that what one would be aware of would be: your consciousness would be up above the scene looking down on it. But you wouldn't be upset. Then, soon you would be moving off, headed toward the place we go… you would already be in the other dimension. There's a good chance that your consciousness would have left the body even before the head where cut off.

    I'm an enthusiastic student of NDEs!!

    1. Your comment is very interesting. The exact moment consciousness leaves the brain, assuming it's ever there at all, is unclear so far. No doubt that will be researched sooner or later. There was an announcement last week on a surge of mental activity at about 30 seconds after a cardiac arrest. Those researches wanted to suggest that this was when an NDE took place. What they forgot was that many NDEs occur well after 30 seconds from when the heart stops. There are other problems in those findings but space doesn't allow here. If you'd like to discuss NDE further you can always email me at