Life after death: Expert on near-death experience of bright light at the end of tunnel

Life after death: Expert discusses research into topic

NDE is commonly experienced by people who have suffered an extreme medical trauma, such as a heart attack or asphyxia. Patients who have experienced an NDE often recall seeing bright light at the end of a tunnel, floating outside their bodies or even journeying into space among other things. NDEs have led some people to believe that there is such a thing as life after death.

However, a University of Cork professor suggests a more scientific reason for the phenomenon.

Writing in the Irish Times, Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry William Reville argued that NDEs probably reflect the activity of the dying brain as oxygen levels fall and carbon dioxide levels rise.

He said: “NDE reports of light at the end of a dark tunnel could simply reflect oxygen levels falling in the retina, starting at the periphery and moving inwards towards the centre, producing tunnel vision.”

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There are those that believe NDEs raise the possibility that human consciousness can exist independently of the human brain.

Professor Reville didn’t entirely rule this out.

He concluded his article, by saying: “Nevertheless, disembodied consciousness has yet to be definitively ruled out.

“Imagine the excitement if rigorous testing eventually rules it in!

“We would then have to reimagine the mind as some sort of complex electromagnetic algorithm normally coupled to the brain but also capable of detaching from this base.”

A critical care physician in the US, along with some colleagues from around the world, decided to gather data on people’s experiences of NDEs after suffering heart attacks.

Sam Parnia, a director of resuscitation research at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York, and his research team concluded that there were seven themes that stood out in people’s recollections of their near death experiences.


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Those themes were: fear, seeing animals or plants, bright light, violence and persecution, deja-vu, seeing family and recalling events post-cardiac arrest.

These mental experiences ranged from terrifying to blissful. There were those who reported feeling afraid or suffering persecution, for example.

Others, however, experienced the opposite sensation, with 22 percent reporting “a feeling of peace or pleasantness”.

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