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  1. 1. Near Death Experiences A2 Psychology Miss Brown
  2. 2. What is a near death experience?Near-death experiences (NDEs) occur when a person is close to death and also after fainting or simply in stressful or threatening situation.
  3. 3. Explanations of NDE’s Psychological explanation – Some people hold paranormal beliefs and this leads them to interpret events in terms of paranormal explanations, for example viewing NDEs as spiritual experiences. Biological explanation – One suggestion is that endorphins are released at times of pain and stress and these lead to feelings of euphoria and detachment (Carr 1982). More recent explanations suggest that NDEs are related to hypoxia (lack of oxygen) which may occur, for example during cardiac arrest or fainting. This hypoxia might cause REM intrusions which create a mixed sleep/awake state that could, like OOBEs, disrupt the integration of sensory information. Alternatively hypoxia created a flood of the neurotransmitter glutamate which causes neuronal death. As a defence, the brain creates a protective blockade to prevent neuronal death and this blockade is the source of an NDE.
  4. 4. Research into NDE’sNaturally occurring NDEs – Ring (1980) interviewed 100 people who had NDEs, finding that about 60% of survivors reported a sense of peace, 33% reported OOBEs, 25% said they entered a tunnel and a few had experienced a kind of ‘life review’. Nelson et al. (2006) studied 55 people with NDEs and 55 controls. He found that the NDE group were more likely to also experience ‘REM intrusions’.Artificially induced NDEs – Jansen (1993) has experimented with the drug ketamine, giving it to patients to observe the effects. He found that it can produce the classic symptoms of NDEs. In addition, ketamine has been found to trigger the same blockade as glutamate (Jansen, 2009).
  5. 5. Evaluation for NDE’s - ExplanationsPsychological explanation – The fact that NDEs are not experienced by all near-death patients means that there is likely to be a psychological component to the experience. For example, some people may expect to have such experiences and then, if they experience certain physiological changes, they label these as a spiritual event.Spiritual explanation – Van Lommel et al (2001) followed 344 cardiac survivors over 8 years and found those who had experienced an NDE subsequently regarded it as a life-changing, spiritual experience. Those who didn’t have an NDE continued to fear death. This suggests that is a spiritual experience but that doesn’t mean that it is caused by spiritual factors.
  6. 6. Evaluation for NDE’s - ResearchEarly studies may have lacked appropriate controls. Interviewer bias may have affected the data collected as Moody (1975) reported NDEs as wonderful experiences, whereas more recent research has found that for many people they are frightening.
  7. 7. Evaluation for NDE’s – AO3Reductionism – Parnia suggests that, if it can be shown that mental experiences occur when the brain is inactive in an NDE, then this might count as a demonstration of the soul – the mind separate from the physical body. By contrast Jansen (1993) says the real reductionism come from those who attempt to ‘draw a mystical cover over the NDE, belittling the substantial evidence in favour of a scientific explanation’.
  8. 8. Evaluation for NDE’s – AO3Cultural differences – Augustine (2008) presented a comprehensive review of NDEs in different cultures and provided examples, such as in India NDEs involve encounters with Hindu figures and in Japan there were no instances of any light appearing. There were also consistent 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 physiological factors are involved.