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Near-death experiences 'explained': Scientists believe it's the last gasp of a dying brain.

A study of the brains of critically ill men and women revealed a brief burst of activity moments before death.

Researcher Lakhmir Chawla, an intensive care doctor, said: 'We think that near-death experiences could be caused by a surge of electrical energy as the brain runs out of oxygen.

As blood flow slows down and oxygen levels fall, the brain cells fire one last electrical impulse.

'It starts in one part of the brain and spreads in a cascade and this may give people vivid mental sensations.'

Dr Chawla, of the George Washington University medical centre in Washington DC, monitored the brain activity of seven terminally-ill people to ensure the painkillers they were being given were working.

In each case, the gradual tailing off of brain activity in the hour or so before death was interrupted by a brief spurt of action, lasting from 30 seconds to three minutes.

Levels were similar to those seen in fully-conscious people - even though blood pressure was so low as to be undetectable - and could generate vivid images and feelings, said the researcher.

Writing in the Journal of Palliative Medicine, he said: 'We speculate that in those patients who are successfully revived, they may recall the images and memories triggered by this cascade.

'We offer this as a potential explanation for the clarity in which many patients have "out of body" experiences when successfully revived from a near-death event.'

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