"We recorded a total of 900 seconds. We saw an increase in the gamma oscillation in the fifteen seconds before and in the fifteen seconds after the cardiac arrest," says the physician who played a key role in the discovery, German neurosurgeon Ajmal Zemmar, 38. He fled from Afghanistan to Germany with his parents at the age of six, grew up in Bremen and studied medicine in Frankfurt am Main. In a Zoom conversation, he told me in detail about his discovery.

It started when an 87-year-old man came to the emergency room of Vancouver General Hospital, where Zemmar worked as a neurosurgeon. The man has fallen, blood is leaking from his head, in the space between the hard meninges and the brain. This subdural hematoma presses on the brain and requires surgery. Zemmar says: "We made an opening in the skull, removed the bone, removed this bleeding and put the bone back in place."

The man is fine after the procedure, but on the third day after the operation, he suddenly begins to have epileptic seizures. That's why the doctors connect him to an EEG, they want to know where the epileptic seizures come from. During this examination, the man suffers a cardiac arrest, but the recording continues. "It all came very coincidentally," Zemmar recalls. "We had a picture of a patient who was awake and died within twenty minutes."

This electroencephalogram, Zemmar and his colleagues write in the current issue of the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, suggests that "the human brain may be able to generate coordinated activities during the near-death phase."

But what does that mean? Zemmar says: "When we perform higher cognitive functions in the brain, such as concentrating, dreaming, meditating, when we remember something, these are all moments when gamma oscillations are active in the brain."

Again and again there have been people who, after a life-threatening experience, have told of conversations with the deceased and strange experiences outside their own bodies. Is there perhaps something to these reports from the supposed afterlife?

The neurosurgeon, who now works at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, warns that his findings should be interpreted with caution. There is only one person's data. And he had swelling and wounds on the brain due to the hematoma and the procedure, as well as epileptic seizures.

Nevertheless, the report does not let me go. Does the brain end life with one last performance? "Of course," says Zemmar, "there's the idea that the brain allows you to think back to the most beautiful memories in your life. That they run in the brain as a replay before you say goodbye."

With thoughtful greetings

Yours, Jörg Blech

In addition, I recommend that you:

Mass extinctions at the end of the Cretaceous: Researchers have examined fossilized fish bones and conclude that the dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid in spring.

Fight for the climate: With an uprising, young activists want to push the government to protect the climate. But they are really the "last generation" that can still change something.

The Plastic Planet: Humanity is littering the earth with plastic. In the world's oceans alone, two truckloads land every minute. Will a meeting with representatives of the UN states in Nairobi be able to stop this madness?

The mobile network of the day after tomorrow: 6G should not only be 100 times faster, but also measure rooms, people and objects – ideal for virtual reality and online games

The next vaccines against Corona: Pharmaceutical researchers are developing vaccines that are intended to completely prevent infections – could they stop future pandemics at an early stage?

Picture of the week

In a reservoir, the more than thousand-year-old church of Sant Romà de Sau in Catalonia can be recognized; since the flooding in the sixties, the tip protrudes two meters out of the water at maximum filling. In many places on the Iberian Peninsula, ghost villages and ruins are reappearing because there has been less rain since October than ever before and the water reservoirs are emptying dramatically.

(Feedback & Suggestions?)