ONE OF the world's leading researchers into near-death experiences (NDEs) has called for the use of brain scans to help discover if changes have taken place in the brain after an NDE. Dr PMH Atwater, based in Virginia, USA, told The Psychic Times:
"There is a pattern of psychological and physiological changes after an NDE. These can be incredible. For example, the average near-death experiencer is without vital signs for between five to twenty minutes, but it's not unusual to find this extending for an hour or more. It is not exceptional for people to revive in the morgue. Yet, no matter how long they are deprived of oxygen and the heart is not beating, these people literally come back smarter than they were before.
“Whether they have extreme or partial intellect enhancement, they invariably come back as creative intuitives and creative problem solvers. I call the near-death experiences a brain shift. This is why I want before and after brain scans. If we can establish clinically that the NDE changes the structure of the brain it will be a tremendous discovery. As far as I'm concerned the after effects of an NDE are what validate the experience. You cannot talk about the experience without talking about the after effects."
Dr Atwater is one of the original researchers of the near-death phenomenon, having begun her work in 1978 after experiencing 3 NDEs herself the previous year. Today, her contribution to the field of near-death studies is considered on par with those of Raymond Moody, author of the world famous book Life After Life. Her first two books, Coming Back to Life and Beyond the Light, are considered the bibles of near-death experiences. She has served two terms on the board of the International Association for Near-Death Studies.
Her research is comprehensive and original. "So far, I'm the only person we know of who uses police investigative techniques in near-death research," she states. This research comprises the experiences of over 3000 adults and 277 children. The findings are startling.
"My research shows that after the near-death episode, forty-eight percent of the children between the ages of birth and fifteen years that I had sessions with tested as genius (average IQ being 150-160) with no genetic markers to account for it. In the sub group of children, between three to five years of age, the number jumps to eighty-one percent. The younger the child, the more apt they are to have an extreme jump in intelligence. Now, if you go even further and look at children with a near-death scenario between birth and eighteen months, those who had a dark or black light experience instead of a white or bright light experience, the IQ rating begins at 182."
Dr Atwater's research includes 'before' and 'after' IQ comparisons. These show that the intelligence jump comes right after the near-death episode had occurred.
"Ninety-three percent of all the children came back loving math, science and history and eighty percent of those also had an enhancement in musical ability," she said. "Now, if you are familiar with the brain, you know that the regions for music and math are right next to each other. It's as if they are being linked together, as if they are one functional unit. "Even those who did not test out with extraordinarily high IQs evidenced uniquely creative and intuitive minds, numerous faculty enhancements, an unrelenting curiosity, and exceptional knowledge soon after reviving. Some were gifted with foreign languages. Adult experiencers also returned more intelligent than before, and many became intuitive problem solvers. All of this occurred without genetic markers of any kind to account for what happened.
"Overall, child experiencers are natural computer whizzes. Many become physicists and inventors once grown, or masters of the arts and humanities; some are professional psychics. Older teenage and adult experiencers are most often drawn to healing, counselling, and ministerial roles afterward. Not so the younger kids, at least not the majority. But mention math or science, and they're all aglow. History intrigues them, along with anything to do with times past, as if it might apply to who they were before in past lives.
"Most (85 percent) of the kids with the greatest acceleration in mathematical ability also acquired an intense and passionate love of music. In the brain, math and music functions are located next to each other. Children's near-death states seem to activate both of these regions, as if they were a single unit. The child who returns from a near-death episode is a remodelled, rewired, and refined version of the original. The changes children undergo are more dramatic than those of adults. Not, I suspect, because their after effects are different, but because they are still in the process of basic brain development when the episode occurs. They are hit with a life-changing experience at a time when they are most vulnerable to the power of such a shift."
Dr Atwater explained that children of any age can have an NDE.
"That includes newborns and infants. What they describe, once they are able to verbalize, can be quite shocking to parents who are unfamiliar with the startling reality of near-death states. With a research base of 277 child experiencers, I can say that the vast majority (76 percent) of children's scenarios are rather simple, featuring only three or fewer elements. Things like loving nothingness, friendly darkness, a special voice, an out-of-body experience, or a visitation of some kind. The closer the child is to puberty, the more apt he or she is to have a longer, more involved episode. Still, kids' cases run the gamut from hellish to heavenly, regardless of age. The youngest to have a terrifying experience was only nine days old. This baby girl was traumatised by ghoul-like beings who threatened her when she died during surgery. The event haunted her throughout her growing years until the age of twenty-eight, when she had a second near-death experience that explained the first one."
Dr Atwater is adamant that her research provides concrete evidence that the mind and brain are separate. She also documents physiological changes, such as lower blood pressure, increased allergies, sensitivity to light and sound, and less tolerance for pharmaceuticals and other chemicals. She is therefore not impressed by the arguments put forward by the sceptics of her work.
"Every single sceptical theory or argument put forward to explain NDEs has been disproved and discredited by clinical research", she explained. "This includes all the work of Susan Blackmore. For example, one of her explanations for NDEs is that they can be caused by lack of oxygen to the brain. We now know through studies conducted by the US navy into deep oxygen deprivation that NDEs do not match that at all. They are quite distinctively different from the studies done by the navy. Although the basic imagery and some of the basic patterning is similar, the navy's findings showed they weren't as detailed and they did not display the same pattern of physiological and psychological after effects. Nor did they come up with these incredibly detailed out of body experiences. Nor did their subjects bring forth information that they could not possibly have known."
Dr Atwater pointed to the research conducted by Pim van Lommel as the most impressive clinical study ever done on NDEs. "It was the best because it involved about a dozen different hospitals, covering over 300 people and two follow up studies. He was exceedingly thorough. Among the things he was able to prove was that all of the people were brain dead. And they still had long, involved NDEs. In essence, what he proved was that other-worldly journeys are real and not fantasy. They are part of the human condition.
"The brain is not the origination of the mind. The brain and mind are separate. In the future we are going to get even more evidence for all of this as more research is done. So much, in fact, that anybody who dismisses the idea that mind and brain are separate is just going to look silly. I don't think we are very far away from this. It is only a matter of time.
"More medical people are now willing to consider the reality of the near-death phenomenon and the effect it has on experiencers. Much of this turn-around in relative acceptance is because of the Pam Reynolds case that was reported on in cardiologist, Michael Sabom's book Light & Death. Pam's case is the first absolute medical proof that an individual can see and hear when dead (without vital signs, brain dead as well), and can have a long, fully involved near-death experience absent of any brain response whatsoever. Since her case cannot be refuted, medical science has had to reconsider its position.
"Even though this has occurred, there is still reluctance amongst medical people to admit what cannot be denied. Any further breakthrough will depend on continuing research, and specifically with medical researchers with sterling reputations - who are willing to put their reputation on the line. Several such people are now doing just that. We'll have to wait for results. But even solid evidence that cannot be refuted is not enough to convince a person with a closed mind. Only a personal experience can do that. It is time now we mature as a society and admit and recognise that we have all the proof we need to establish that human beings are more than just their physical body and senses. There are other realities that we can reach."
Speaking of her own NDEs, Dr Atwater said:
"I died 3 times in 1977 over 3 months. Twice in January of that year and once in March. It was this third NDE that specifically put me in research. It was a long complicated episode. During that third NDE I reached that plane that many reach. Many people call it The Plane of All Knowing where you just suddenly know all things and all the puzzles of life unravel themselves and you understand everything and the why of things. I reached that point, and afterwards a voice spoke to me. I call it The Voice Like None Other because it was completely different to anything I had heard before. It was so huge, and powerful. It permeated everything. It was very specific and it said 'Test Revelation. You are to do the research. One book for each death.' Then it showed me what that meant.
"It named books two and three but didn't name book one. It showed me what was to be in each book. It didn't tell me how to do it or how long it would take or how much effort would be involved, but it was specific in other areas. So I went along with it and said I would do it. Then I came back to life. I sensed it was God's voice, but of course I have no way of proving that. As a researcher of near-death states, I can assure you that any type of near-death experiences can be life changing. But as an experiencer, I can positively affirm that being bathed in the light on the other side of death is more than life changing. That light is the very essence, the heart and soul, the all-consuming consummation of ecstatic ecstasy. It is a million suns of compressed love dissolving everything into the one great brilliance of all that is and all that ever was and all that ever will be.
"You know it's God. No one has to tell you. You just know...."
Dr Atwater's website can be found at cinemind.com/atwater/.
Article first appeared in The Psychic Times, published in PS Magazine with permission. The Psychic Times: Articles, News and Interviews about psychic phenomenon, paranormal activity and life after death experiences.