Brain activity possible beyond flat EEG after all?

Bart V

straw materialist
Member
#2
Came across this study, i did not have time yet to look at it much beyond the abstract, but i trust it will generate some interest from the NDE crowd
Coma: Researchers observe never-before-detected brain activity
Active brain state beyond the deep coma associated with a flat EEG
Researchers from the University of Montreal and their colleagues have found brain activity beyond a flat line EEG, which they have called Nu-complexes (from the Greek letter Νν). According to existing scientific data, researchers and doctors had established that beyond the so-called "flat line" (flat electroencephalogram or EEG), there is nothing at all, no brain activity, no possibility of life. This major discovery suggests that there is a whole new frontier in animal and human brain functioning.

The researchers observed a human patient in an extreme deep hypoxic coma under powerful anti-epileptic medication that he had been required to take due to his health issues. "Dr. Bogdan Florea from Romania contacted our research team because he had observed unexplainable phenomena on the EEG of a coma patient. We realized that there was cerebral activity, unknown until now, in the patient's brain," says Dr. Florin Amzica, director of the study and professor at the University of Montreal's School of Dentistry.

Dr. Amzica's team then decided to recreate the patient's state in cats, the standard animal model for neurological studies. Using the anesthetic isoflurane, they placed the cats in an extremely deep—but completely reversible—coma. The cats passed the flat (isoelectric) EEG line, which is associated with silence in the cortex (the governing part of the brain). The team observed cerebral activity in 100% of the cats in deep coma, in the form of oscillations generated in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning processes. These oscillations, unknown until now, were transmitted to the master part of the brain, the cortex. The researchers concluded that the observed EEG waves, or Nu-complexes, were the same as those observed in the human patient.

Dr. Amzica stresses the importance of understanding the implications of these findings. "Those who have decided to or have to 'unplug' a near-brain-dead relative needn't worry or doubt their doctor. The current criteria for diagnosing brain death are extremely stringent. Our finding may perhaps in the long term lead to a redefinition of the criteria, but we are far from that. Moreover, this is not the most important or useful aspect of our study," Dr. Amzica said.

From Nu-complexes to therapeutic comas

The most useful aspect of this finding is the therapeutic potential, the neuroprotection, of the extreme deep coma. After a major injury, some patients are in such serious condition that doctors deliberately place them in an artificial coma to protect their body and brain so they can recover. But Dr. Amzica believes that the extreme deep coma experimented on the cats may be more protective.

"Indeed, an organ or muscle that remains inactive for a long time eventually atrophies. It is plausible that the same applies to a brain kept for an extended period in a state corresponding to a flat EEG," says Professor Amzica. "An inactive brain coming out of a prolonged coma may be in worse shape than a brain that has had minimal activity. Research on the effects of extreme deep coma during which the hippocampus is active, through Nu-complexes. is absolutely vital for the benefit of patients."

"Another implication of this finding is that we now have evidence that the brain is able to survive a an extremely deep coma if the integrity of the nervous structures is preserved," said lead author of the study, Daniel Kroeger. "We also found that the hippocampus can send 'orders' to the brain's commander in chief, the cortex. Finally, the possibility of studying the learning and memory processes of the hippocampus during a state of coma will help further understanding of them. In short, all sorts of avenues for basic research are now open to us."
This is from an article that is a bit more accessible, the original article is to technical for me.
My hope is that some of that is going to be translated into laymanese by the knowledgeable crowd here.
 
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#3
This is from an article that is a bit more accessible, the original article is to technical for me.
My hope is that some of that is going to be translated into laymanese by the knowledgeable crowd here.
It basically says that they have identified a center of the brain which continues to operate even while the brain has a flat EEG, essentially a "hibernation" or coma mode that they tested by giving drugs to cats and replicating the effect. Sections relating to memory and learning remained "powered" while the rest of the brain is effectively offline. They are also suggesting that the "extreme coma" should be researched as it could have therapeutic effects and be safer than the current means of placing patients in to a coma.

I foresee at least one person claiming this as one big "told you so", and while the memory and learning centers remain powered it doesn't explain anomalous cognition which is suspected in some NDEs. It would also be necessary to see if when this is done to humans, they report any experiences while placed in this "deep coma."
 
#4
What it suggests is that the brain is pretty complicated and we should really be hesitant when making declarations about it can or can't do.
 
#5
I foresee at least one person claiming this as one big "told you so", and while the memory and learning centers remain powered it doesn't explain anomalous cognition which is suspected in some NDEs. It would also be necessary to see if when this is done to humans, they report any experiences while placed in this "deep coma."
I told you so!! (Sorry, couldnt resist)
I dont think it has anything to do with NDE's, but it is an interesting new development. Especially the fact that the memory centers stay online when all EEG info says no activity. People have had NDE's while not in that state though. The human brain is an awesome machine.
 
#6
What it suggests is that the brain is pretty complicated and we should really be hesitant when making declarations about it can or can't do.
At least now we could plausibly argue that the non-veridical experiences did in fact happen during standstills. All though it comes at the cost of yet-more doubt on the contents.
 

Bart V

straw materialist
Member
#7
What it suggests is that the brain is pretty complicated and we should really be hesitant when making declarations about it can or can't do.
Well said, but to me it also raises the question why the NDE researchers are not doing this kind of research.
This is something we can not learn from endlessly collecting NDE reports, this is the kind of research that needs to be done before anyone can make far reaching declarations about the (im)possibility of brain activity beyond flat EEG.
 
#8
Well said, but to me it also raises the question why the NDE researchers are not doing this kind of research.
This is something we can not learn from endlessly collecting NDE reports, this is the kind of research that needs to be done before anyone can make far reaching declarations about the (im)possibility of brain activity beyond flat EEG.
Its important to note what kind of activity, though. If its the kind of activity that primes twitch reflexes, then what use is it to ndes? If its not the kind of activity that would produce hyper lucid experiences, then its not useful to ndes. This is not a case where any brain activities falsify the survival hypothesis. If there are ANY discrepancies between mind states and brain states in the non-linear direction then the production hypothesis is falsified. One of the most compelling aspects of the production hypothesis is that when you damage your brain, you damage your mind. However, if the opposite is true sometimes ( when your brain is compromised, your mind works better ), then that relation is inverse and production loses credibility.
 
#9
I don't think its as simple as "when the brain is damaged your mind is worse." As an analogy take the flight or fight response that the body goes through when it perceives danger - blood will go to the extremities, preparing the body to either flee or fight. When the body is under attack it can set off reactions to bolster certain processes. I'm making a particular argument re: NDEs on this, just that its not that simple.

These are all good hypotheses to explore- I think what some NDE proponents do though is put the cart before the horse a bit and assume that they are hypotheses that have been confirmed and therefore can stand as premises for figuring out NDEs logically.
 
#10
Well said, but to me it also raises the question why the NDE researchers are not doing this kind of research.
This is something we can not learn from endlessly collecting NDE reports, this is the kind of research that needs to be done before anyone can make far reaching declarations about the (im)possibility of brain activity beyond flat EEG.
Because this study is derived ultimately from an anomalous case which fell in to their laps. Why you find it in neurology instead of from IANDS is because that's just who the poor individual having to be pumped full of anti-epileptics happened to be at the time. If the same guy walked in to Parnia's lab, they probably would write about it.
 

Bart V

straw materialist
Member
#11
Because this study is derived ultimately from an anomalous case which fell in to their laps. Why you find it in neurology instead of from IANDS is because that's just who the poor individual having to be pumped full of anti-epileptics happened to be at the time. If the same guy walked in to Parnia's lab, they probably would write about it.
I agree that this discovery is largely serendipitous.
The thing is though, the survivalists credo has always been "absolutely no brain activity possible during flat EEG".
As we see now, that was an argument from ignorance, not backed up by the extensive research necessary to prove a negative with such confidence.
If NDE research wasn't such an ideologically driven effort, the evidence could have been interpreted as tentative proof of unexpected brain activity at flat EEG.
The only one exception might indeed be Parnia, although he might be hedging his bets a bit
 
#12
As we see now, that was an argument from ignorance, not backed up by the extensive research necessary to prove a negative with such confidence. If NDE research wasn't such an ideologically driven effort, the evidence could have been interpreted as tentative proof of unexpected brain activity at flat EEG. The only one exception might indeed be Parnia, although he might be hedging his bets a bit
Non-survivalists weren't providing extensive research necessary to prove a positive either. An NDE researcher really isn't "allowed" to perform experiments. Information they can gather comes from whatever shows up on their doorstep, since they can't really go around killing people to see how NDEs happen. As I mentioned, this is only held as "NDE researchers being ideologues" because they didn't chance in to the patient.

The thing is though, the survivalists credo has always been "absolutely no brain activity possible during flat EEG".
It could turn out that this doesn't actually mean anything, and is little more than a "RAM refresher" of some sort. Computers have them too, but that doesn't mean a computer in sleep mode can actually do anything aside from keep the RAM state loaded. We'll have to wait until those human tests they recommend come out to see how screwed survival is.
 
#13
I agree that this discovery is largely serendipitous.
The thing is though, the survivalists credo has always been "absolutely no brain activity possible during flat EEG".
As we see now, that was an argument from ignorance, not backed up by the extensive research necessary to prove a negative with such confidence.
If NDE research wasn't such an ideologically driven effort, the evidence could have been interpreted as tentative proof of unexpected brain activity at flat EEG.
The only one exception might indeed be Parnia, although he might be hedging his bets a bit
That has rarely ever been the reply of serious survivalist scientists like Parnia, Pim Van Lommel, and Fenwick. Their argument has always been that the amount of brain activity is INSUFFICIENT to explain the effect. Not that there is no brain activity. You may be characterizing the nde community at large; But this has never been a falsification in the eyes of serious NDE researchers.
 
#14
That has rarely ever been the reply of serious survivalist scientists like Parnia, Pim Van Lommel, and Fenwick. Their argument has always been that the amount of brain activity is INSUFFICIENT to explain the effect. Not that there is no brain activity. You may be characterizing the nde community at large; But this has never been a falsification in the eyes of serious NDE researchers.
I was going to say something to this effect, but then I realized I'd have to re-check the paper to be certain. I'm also not sure how Parnia can be written off as just "hedging his bets"; he only wants to talk about what he has hard data to back up, which he can't really be faulted for. Sadly I'm not too familiar with Fenwick.
 
#15
Okay, I checked the paper.

Pin van Lommel and Ruud van Wees and Vincent Meyers and Ingrid Elfferich said:
With lack of evidence for any other theories for NDE,the thus far assumed, but never proven, concept that consciousness and memories are localised in the brain should be discussed. How could a clear consciousness outside one’s body be experienced at the moment that the brain no longer functions during a period of clinical death with flat EEG?22Also, in cardiac arrest the EEG usually becomes flat in most cases within about 10 s from onset of syncope.29,30Furthermore, blind people have described veridical perception during out-of-body experiences at the time of this experience.31NDE pushes at the limits of medical ideas about the range of human consciousness and the mind-brain relation."
There is a reference to this occurring when the brain "no longer functions"; though given twelve years have passed and this is posed as a question in the discussion section, I think we can forgive the paper for that.

We did not show that psychological, neurophysiological, or physiological factors caused these experiences after cardiac arrest. [..] And yet, neurophysiological processes must play some part in NDE. Similar experiences can be induced through electrical stimulation of the temporal lobe [..]
They also acknowledged there was probably correlate phenomenon in the brain for the experience, but the work was not designed to find what it was.
 
#16
Okay, I checked the paper.



There is a reference to this occurring when the brain "no longer functions"; though given twelve years have passed and this is posed as a question in the discussion section, I think we can forgive the paper for that.



They also acknowledged there was probably correlate phenomenon in the brain for the experience, but the work was not designed to find what it was.
Exactly. I dont know if you were around for it, but Smithy actually emailed Pim Van Lommel and asked him for clarification about what he meant by flatline EEG. He stated that he meant that a flatline EEG did not mean that there was no actvitiy, or that there was no deep brain activity. He meant that the EEG measurements were insufficient to facilitate conscious awareness.

The problem with introducing the argument from ignorance in regards to this condition is that the argument from ignorance can be used for everything, about everything. If we don't know enough about a dying brain to know what it can or cannot do, it is also likewise logical to assume that we don't know enough about the brain to say it produces conciousness. If you're willing to state that 'correlation is enough to prove causation', then when we have instances like these where a dying brain seems more functionally aware than a nondying brain, then that correlation begins to collapse. If you're willing to state that there is a causitive link between brain states and mind states, then the model you impose should account for the extremely lucid experiences experienced in states of near death. The fact that this anomaly shattered our expectations of how a brain would operate gives evidence away from a standard model of how we view the relationship between the mind and the brain. It's okay to state that the brain still creates the mind albeit some function unknown to us; but how are those criticisms of transmition valid when this is the accepted attitude towards these questions.

The argument was never supposed to be there was NO correlation between brain states and mind states, such as low-level brain activity in the states of a coma. The argument has always been that these types of activities and measurements were insufficient to explain the depth and bredth of an experience of this type in reference to a disfunctioning brain. If you're willing to challenge the assumption that a dysfunctioning brain cannot function properly, then you also have to challenge the assumptions of the model that provided you the prediction that it couldn't.
 
#17
The problem with introducing the argument from ignorance in regards to this condition is that the argument from ignorance can be used for everything, about everything.
Unfortunately survival somewhat requires dualism, and dualism arguments are currently made from a disadvantage (e.g. it has to be dualism because of this list of exclusions, not because of inclusions.)
 
#18
Unfortunately survival somewhat requires dualism, and dualism arguments are currently made from a disadvantage (e.g. it has to be dualism because of this list of exclusions, not because of inclusions.)
And all coherent arguments for monism deny the existence of consciousness, which we know is silly.
 
#19
Unfortunately survival somewhat requires dualism, and dualism arguments are currently made from a disadvantage (e.g. it has to be dualism because of this list of exclusions, not because of inclusions.)
Dualism merely arises from the observation of the state of things. A particle of air does not say, I am a storm and I must behave how a storm behaves without awareness of the fact this is only a particle. A particle is a particle, and behaves like a particle without any understanding that it is part of a storm. Of monism was true, our brain would behave like a brain without the understanding it produces a mind. The brain would be unaware of consciousness in the way that a particle is unaware that is a storm.
 
#20
Finding signs of life is to be expected. Are we not all in agreement that coma is not death? There is certainly room for this data from both the 'materialist' and dualist presupposition. The dualist already has full awareness to worry about, any less is not particularly problematic. From a 'materialist' point of view, it reinforces the idea that the brain is severely impaired, but capable of functioning in key areas. The big questions that came out of the NDE research remain unanswered, that's of course about the shared common experience and the veridical reports.
 
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