Near Death Experiences

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  • Created by: Ross Hill
  • Created on: 21-02-15 15:25

Near Death Experiences

Near death experiences (NDEs) occur when a person is close to death, after fainting or in simply stressful and threatening situations

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Near Death Experiences-Psychological Explanations

Some people hold paranormal beliefs and this leads them to interpret events in terms of paranormal explanations 

For example vieweing a NDE as a spiritual experience

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Near Death Experiences- Biological Explanations

  • Endorphins are released at times of pain and stress that lead to feelings of euphoria and detachment
  • Recent Research --> NDEs are related to hypoxia (lack of oxygen) which may occur during cardiac arrest of fainting.
  • Hypoxia may cause REM intrusion which create mixed sleep/awake state that could like OOBEs disrupt the integration of sensory info.
  • Alternatively Hypoxia caused a flood of neurotransmitter glutamate which cuases neuronal death . As a defence the brain creates a protective blockade to prevent neuronal death and this blockade is the source of NDE
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Near Death Experiences- Research- Natural

Ring (1980);

  • Interviewed 100 people who had NDEs
  • Found that 60% of survivors reported a sense of peace
  • 33% reported OOBEs
  • 25% entered a tunnel
  • Few had a kind of 'life review'

Nelson et al (2006);

  • 55 people with NDE and 55 controls
  • Found that NDE group were more likely to also experience REM intrusions
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Near Death Experiences- Research- Artifical

Jansen (1993);

  • Experimented with the drug ketamine
  • Gave it to patients to observe effects
  • Found that it can produce the classic symptoms of NDEs

Jansen (2009);

  • Ketamine found to trigger the same blockade as glutamate
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Near Death Experiences- Evaluation


  • The fact that NDEs are not experienced by all NDE patients means there is likely a psychological component to the experience e.g. some people may expect to have such experience and then if they experience a certain physiological charactersitic they label these as a spiritual event 


  • Van Lommel et al (2001);
    • Followed 334 cardiac survivors over 8 years
    • Found those who had experienced a NDE subsequently regarded it as a life changing, spiritual experience
    • Those who didnt have a NDE continued to fear death
    • This suggests that it is a spiritual experience but that doesnt mean that it is cuased by spiritual factors

Research --> lacked appropriate controls. Interviewer bias may have affected the data collected as Moody (1975) descrived them as a wonderful experience whereas more recent research has found that for many people they are frightening

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A03- IDA


  • If it can be shown that mental experiences occur when the brain is inactive in a NDE then this might count as a demonstration of soul and mind sperate from the body (Parnia)
  • By contrast if the real reductionism comes from those who attempt to 'draw a mystical cover over the NDE' then they are ignoring the evidence in favour of a scientific explanation

Primary issue= authenticity of paranormal processes

Cultural Differences;

  • Augustine (2008) presented a comphrensive review of NDEs in different cultures and provided examples such as India's NDEs involve encountering Hindu figures, and Japan saw no light appearing
  • There were also consisent features such as going through a tunnel, feelings of peace, OOBEs and meeting a barrier between life and death
  • Such differences and similarities suggest that both psychological and pysiological factors are involved
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