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Cool Study Update (Hôpital Sacré-Coeur, Montreal, Canada)

The main objective of our study is to objectively test the veridicity of out-of-body (OBE) perceptions by use of hidden targets during cardiocirculatory arrest (also known as a hypothermic cardiac standstill). This type of operation involves cooling the body of the patients and stopping blood circulation. At Hôpital Sacré-Coeur in Montreal, it is used by Dr. Philippe Demers (a cardiothoracic surgeon) to repair aortic arch defects. The standstill procedure requires keeping the patient in a state of hibernation at 17 degrees Celsius with no breathing and heartbeat for up to 20 minutes. The patient is considered clinically dead during this procedure.

The targets are emotionally laden pictures (from the International Affective Picture System) presented on a wide screen computer monitor. The laptop computer is placed on a height adjustable trolley support. The trolley support is adjusted at a height of 7 feet from the ground in the operating room. Pictures are visible only from the ceiling. The duration of each picture is 60 seconds. A computer controlled clock allows us to know exactly at what time the pictures are presented.

After the surgical procedure, patients will be given an information sheet and in a recorded interview, asked an open question regarding their experiences while ‘unconscious’. No terms related to being near-death/out-of-body will be mentioned. Their experiences will be standardised according to the 16 point Greyson questionnaire, in which a near-death experience is defined as a score of 7 or over. Should patients claim to have been aware of actual events taking place during cardiocirculatory arrest, then they should also be able to see the targets. If such experiences are merely false memories formed after the event then patients would not be expected to identify the targets.

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