The AWARE Study
The AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation) study is the first launched by the Human Consciousness Project, a multidisciplinary collaboration of international scientists and physicians who have joined forces to study the relationship between mind and brain during clinical death, and is led by Dr. Sam Parnia, a world-renowned expert on the study of the human mind and consciousness during clinical death, together with Dr Peter Fenwick and Professors Stephen Holgate and Robert Peveler of the University of Southampton. The team will be working in collaboration with more than 25 major medical centers throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States.
Although the study of death has traditionally been considered a subject for theology or philosophy, recent advances in medicine have finally enabled a scientific approach to understanding the ultimate mystery facing humankind. “Contrary to popular perception,” Dr. Parnia explains, “death is not a specific moment. It is actually a process that begins when the heart stops beating, the lungs stop working, and the brain ceases functioning – a medical condition termed cardiac arrest, which from a biological viewpoint is synonymous with clinical death.”
“During a cardiac arrest, all three criteria of death are present. Subsequently, there is a period of time, ranging from a few seconds to an hour or longer, in which emergency medical efforts may succeed in restarting the heart and reversing the dying process. What people experience during this period of cardiac arrest provides a unique window of understanding into what we are all likely to experience during the dying process.”
A number of recent scientific studies carried out by independent researchers have demonstrated that 10-20 per cent of people who go through cardiac arrest and clinical death report lucid, well structured thought processes, reasoning, memories, and sometimes detailed recall of events during their encounter with death.
“The remarkable point about these experiences,” according to Dr. Parnia, “is that while studies of the brain during cardiac arrest have consistently shown that there is no measurable brain activity, these subjects have reported detailed perceptions that indicate the contrary—namely, a high level of consciousness in the absence of detectable brain activity. If we can objectively verify these claims, the results would bear profound implications not only for the scientific community, but for the way in which we understand and relate to life and death as a society.”
During the AWARE study, physicians will use the latest technologies to study the brain and consciousness during cardiac arrest. At the same time, they will also be testing the validity of out of body experiences and claims of being able to see and hear during cardiac arrest through the use of randomly generated hidden images that are not visible unless viewed from specific vantage points above.
The study is being funded by the UK Resuscitation Council, the Horizon Research Foundation, and the Nour Foundation in the United States.