Scientist Reveals What Happens 30 Seconds Before You Die

Mar | 4.6K sharesStefan Armitage

Death can be an uncomfortable subject. Many shy away from discussing or even thinking about it but the truth is our mortality is a fact of life. All the same, it is an awkward, and even scary, possibly because of the fear of the unknown. Perhaps if we knew more about what happened afterward, we might know what to look forward to like this guy.

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However, as certain and permanent as death is, we know little about what actually happens when we die. Do angels come and sing by your bedside? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Does the Grim Reaper chase you with his scythe?

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So many questions, so few answers. However, the good folks at Vice decided to explore these issues with a scientist. Australian neurologist Dr. Cameron Shaw dissected a human brain in order to show what happens in the moments before death.

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The remains belonged to a woman who had donated her body to Deakin University as her contribution to science. As he dissected her brain, he explained its structure and how its composition affects the process of death.

Dr. Shaw explained that the brain has developed in layers over millions of years - slowly adding different structures as the complexity of human bodies evolved. Scientists believe that the most primitive area - the basal ganglia - developed first, and they control basic desires like hunger and libido as well as movement.

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Structures related to more intellectual and emotionally complex functions - the hippocampus and temporal lobe - slowly emerged around this - adding capabilities such as memory and learning. The cerebral cortex - the outermost layer of the brain is believed to have evolved most recently. It consists of four lobes which control morality and ability to plan for the future.

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This layering system is crucial to our understanding of death because Dr. Shaw explains that the brain dies in stages. As the brain's blood supply comes from below, the outer layers - which control our higher and more "human" functions such as personality, sense of the future and drive - die first within the first 10 or 20 seconds. Areas controlling memory and communication go next, leaving the core till last.

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Although those left with a living and active core are technically alive because they retain vital signs, Dr. Shaw explains that they exist in no more than a vegetative state.

"For all intents and purposes, you could say they're dead because they don't have a consciousness or an awareness of their surroundings. But if these basal structures are intact they'll still breath and have a pulse."

This is the amazing moment the cry of a baby brought a mother back to life:

The possibility that our personality and character is first to go, while our baser instincts fight it out till the very end, is an interesting interpretation of the death process. With more research and understanding, the future only holds more interesting revelations about the human brain and could mark a major shift in our view (and fear) of death.