October 16th, 2009
06:33 PM ET

Near-death experience

By Caleb Hellerman
CNN Medical Senior Producer

Our special this weekend, “Another Day: Cheating Death,” includes the story of Laura Geraghty, a school bus driver in Massachusetts who survived a cardiac arrest that left her without a heartbeat for 57 minutes.  While the medical aspect is astounding, just as interesting is the story Geraghty told when she was revived.

She’d floated out of her body, and found herself in a world of incredibly bright light – heaven, she says. While there she saw her son, daughter, granddaughter and even her ex-husband – who wouldn’t take her hand when she reached out to him. Eventually she came back to the real world.

Many cultures and religions describe a vivid world on the border of life and death, but the classic modern near-death experience, or NDE, was described by Dr. Raymond Moody in his 1966 book, “Life After Life.”  While not every NDE includes the same features, among the most common – according to Moody – are bright lights, a tunnel, a sense of being out of the body and an intense feeling of peace and calm.

Most people who return from the verge of death with memories like this say it’s a life-changing experience. Many view it as direct proof of an afterlife – that the place they “visit” is the world we all will see after we die. But increasingly, near-death experience (a term coined by Moody) is being studied from the perspective of science.

Dr. Kevin Nelson, a neurologist at the University of Kentucky, believes an NDE is caused by REM activity, the same type of brain activity that’s linked to dreaming.  REM activity, says Nelson, can be triggered by intense stress or even lack of oxygen. In fact, he says many people experience an out-of-body experience during fainting episodes, or if they momentarily lose blood flow to the brain – as in a massive head rush.

Another intriguing experiment is underway at more than two dozen medical centers in the U.S. and Europe. It’s led by Dr. Sam Parnia, a critical care physician at New York Presbyterian-Cornell Hospital in New York. The setup is ingenuous. In hospital areas with critically ill patients, panels are hung from the ceiling to a height at which only someone floating near the ceiling could see what’s painted on top. If any patient reports a sense of floating - investigators can see if they accurately report what’s on the panel. Because the patients are being carefully monitored in ICUs, the experiment could also determine whether there are physical differences among people who report NDEs, and those who don’t.  

Parnia says he doesn’t know what he’ll find – but he does believe science can answer the question of what these experiences are really all about.  

What do you think? Can near-death experience be explained by what’s going on in the brain?

Watch “Another Day: Cheating Death” at 8 and 11 p.m. ET Saturday and Sunday.

Don’t miss, Dr. Gupta’s new book “Cheating Death”, available now wherever books are sold.  Be sure to follow – and tweet your medical miracle to – @sanjayguptacnn with #miracle and you could win a signed copy of the book and a Skype guest appearance from Dr. Gupta at your book club event.

Editor’s Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

soundoff (658 Responses)
  1. RV Repair San Clemente California


    June 17, 2021 at 11:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. homes for rent near me


    June 17, 2021 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. RV Repair Shop


    June 17, 2021 at 12:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. trails near me

    There is definately a lot to learn about this issue. I really like all the points you made.


    June 17, 2021 at 15:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. car audio near me

    That is a very good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere. Short but very precise informationÖ Thanks for sharing this one. A must read post!


    June 17, 2021 at 17:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. laptop repair near me


    June 17, 2021 at 18:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. oreillys near me

    Having read this I believed it was really enlightening. I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this article together. I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!


    June 17, 2021 at 18:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Bukit Jamur Ciwidey

    It is truly a great and helpful piece of information. I'm glad that you simply shared this useful info with us.
    Please stay us informed like this. Thank
    you for sharing.

    June 17, 2021 at 20:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. harley davidson near me

    I need to to thank you for this fantastic read!! I certainly enjoyed every little bit of it. I have got you book-marked to look at new things you postÖ


    June 17, 2021 at 20:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. food trucks near me

    You made some good points there. I looked on the web for additional information about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this web site.


    June 17, 2021 at 22:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. papa johns near me

    After going over a number of the blog articles on your website, I honestly like your way of blogging. I book marked it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back soon. Please visit my website as well and let me know how you feel.


    June 18, 2021 at 01:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. hiring near me


    June 18, 2021 at 04:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. dennys near me


    June 18, 2021 at 08:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. RV Repair Shop Near Me

    You ought to be a part of a contest for one of the finest websites on the web. I will recommend this web site!


    June 18, 2021 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. RV Repair Shops Near Me

    Iím amazed, I must say. Seldom do I encounter a blog thatís both educative and amusing, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is something which too few folks are speaking intelligently about. I'm very happy that I stumbled across this in my hunt for something concerning this.


    June 18, 2021 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. RV Repair Huntington Beach


    June 18, 2021 at 17:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. RV Repair Shops Nearby

    I want to to thank you for this fantastic read!! I absolutely loved every little bit of it. I've got you book marked to look at new stuff you postÖ


    June 18, 2021 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Camper Repair Near Me

    Everyone loves it when individuals come together and share ideas. Great site, stick with it!


    June 18, 2021 at 21:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Sprinter Repair Costa Mesa


    June 19, 2021 at 02:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. RV Repair Near Me

    I really love your website.. Very nice colors & theme. Did you make this site yourself? Please reply back as Iím wanting to create my own site and would love to know where you got this from or exactly what the theme is called. Appreciate it!


    June 19, 2021 at 02:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. RV Repair Fountain Valley

    This is a topic which is close to my heart... Take care! Exactly where are your contact details though?


    June 19, 2021 at 02:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Sprinter Repair Costa Mesa


    June 19, 2021 at 07:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. houses for rent near me


    June 19, 2021 at 11:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. RV Repair Garden Grove


    June 19, 2021 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. RV Repair Near My Location


    June 19, 2021 at 12:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Sprinter Repair Costa Mesa

    Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Many thanks, However I am encountering issues with your RSS. I donít know why I am unable to subscribe to it. Is there anyone else getting the same RSS issues? Anyone who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanx!!


    June 19, 2021 at 13:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Sprinter Repair Shop Near Me

    I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! I absolutely loved every little bit of it. I have got you bookmarked to check out new things you postÖ


    June 19, 2021 at 13:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. RV Repair Shop Near My Location

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this write-up and also the rest of the website is extremely good.


    June 19, 2021 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. RV Repair Huntington Beach

    An intriguing discussion is definitely worth comment. There's no doubt that that you should publish more on this subject, it might not be a taboo matter but generally people don't speak about such issues. To the next! All the best!!


    June 19, 2021 at 15:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. RV Repair Near Me Now


    June 19, 2021 at 16:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. RV Repair Shops Near Me Now


    June 19, 2021 at 18:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. RV Repair Shops Near My Location

    Hello there! I could have sworn Iíve been to this website before but after going through some of the posts I realized itís new to me. Anyways, Iím certainly happy I discovered it and Iíll be bookmarking it and checking back frequently!


    June 19, 2021 at 19:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Sprinter Repair Orange County


    June 19, 2021 at 20:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. RV Repairs Nearby


    June 19, 2021 at 21:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. RV Repair Orange County California

    I enjoy reading through an article that can make men and women think. Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!


    June 19, 2021 at 23:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Google Marketing Specialist


    June 20, 2021 at 00:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Internet Marketing Companies

    Good post. I learn something new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon every day. It will always be interesting to read articles from other writers and use something from their websites.


    June 20, 2021 at 01:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Social Media Marketing Agencies


    June 20, 2021 at 02:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Internet Marketing Consultant


    June 20, 2021 at 03:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. SEO Marketing Companies

    Pretty! This has been an incredibly wonderful article. Many thanks for supplying these details.


    June 20, 2021 at 03:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Luna Canfield


    June 20, 2021 at 11:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Carey Lazarczyk

    I need to import about 50 of 458 posts from a blogspot blog into wordpress. If I use the plug in import tool, I am concerned that it will duplicate the posts that were already imported in a previous batch. Also the prior posts have been re-categorized. I need to hold those as well. Any tips will help! Thank you..


    June 20, 2021 at 12:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Juanita Grosskopf


    June 20, 2021 at 12:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Gale Guziec


    June 20, 2021 at 13:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Lenard Staberg

    Everything is very open with a precise explanation of the issues. It was really informative. Your website is very helpful. Thanks for sharing!


    June 20, 2021 at 14:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Joaquina Clairday


    June 20, 2021 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. best restaurants near me


    June 20, 2021 at 22:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. catering near me


    June 20, 2021 at 23:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. chevy dealers near me

    Itís hard to come by experienced people on this topic, but you seem like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks


    June 20, 2021 at 23:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. qdoba near me

    I seriously love your website.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you develop this amazing site yourself? Please reply back as Iím looking to create my own personal website and would like to know where you got this from or just what the theme is called. Kudos!


    June 21, 2021 at 00:36 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.