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Sci Rep. 2019 Oct 1;9(1):14047. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-50601-6.

Neurophenomenology of near-death experience memory in hypnotic recall: a within-subject EEG study.

Author information

1
GIGA-Consciousness, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium. cmartial@uliege.be.
2
Centre du Cerveau², University Hospital of Liège, Liège, Belgium. cmartial@uliege.be.
3
GIGA-Consciousness, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium.
4
Centre du Cerveau², University Hospital of Liège, Liège, Belgium.
5
GIGA-Sensation & Perception Research Group, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium.
6
Department of Algology, University Hospital of Liège, Liège, Belgium.
7
Department of Psychology, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium.
8
GIGA-Cyclotron Research Centre In Vivo Imaging, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium.

Abstract

The neurobiological basis of near-death experiences (NDEs) is unknown, but a few studies attempted to investigate it by reproducing in laboratory settings phenomenological experiences that seem to closely resemble NDEs. So far, no study has induced NDE-like features via hypnotic modulation while simultaneously measuring changes in brain activity using high-density EEG. Five volunteers who previously had experienced a pleasant NDE were invited to re-experience the NDE memory and another pleasant autobiographical memory (dating to the same time period), in normal consciousness and with hypnosis. We compared the hypnosis-induced subjective experience with the one of the genuine experience memory. Continuous high-density EEG was recorded throughout. At a phenomenological level, we succeeded in recreating NDE-like features without any adverse effects. Absorption and dissociation levels were reported as higher during all hypnosis conditions as compared to normal consciousness conditions, suggesting that our hypnosis-based protocol increased the felt subjective experience in the recall of both memories. The recall of a NDE phenomenology was related to an increase of alpha activity in frontal and posterior regions. This study provides a proof-of-concept methodology for studying the phenomenon, enabling to prospectively explore the NDE-like features and associated EEG changes in controlled settings.

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