Near Death Experiences

In my most recent crit, it was pointed out to me how my cone prints give a connotation towards death and dying; they feel quite formless, medical like a brain scan, the melancholic colour and the way the circle has a defining start and end suggests a life cycle. I’m pleased they were seen this way, as it is close to my context of my fear of death and how I want my work to be seen.

It was suggested to me that I research into the moments of dying and what imagery relates to death or what we see before we die. There is no answer to what we see as we die and there is no conclusive evidence nor a way to fully understand for obvious reasons. The only inclination we have is of shared experiences from people who have been through a Near Death Experience (NDE). You often hear stories about these in the news but it is basically where the person’s body shuts down and dies, but very quickly comes back to life – So legally they are dead for a few minutes.


The above image is the google image result of ‘near death experience’, and most of them suggest ‘a light at the end of the tunnel’ or a euphoric sensation of floating above your own body. These seem like quite cliche images, but those who have been through a NDE and scientists suggest they are true.

Reading an article online, Director of the Coma Science Group; Steven Laureys, investigates what we see in the moment of death and why. In his study he discovered over 80% of NDE subjects, report a feeling of peacefulness, only 2 subjects reported a negative experience. In Laurey’s journal; Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, he explains his suggestions:

At the time of dying, the brain experiences something very rich and the brain activity is very abnormal. Some people experience a life review before they pass. Viewing these (NDE) experiences is an opportunity to better understand consciousness.


In a second article from the Daily Mail, US scientists believe something happens at the brink of death that pushes the conscious brain to a high level of arousal, potentially triggering visions. ‘Being a brush with the afterlife, causes a rush of electrical activity in the dying brain’.

Ina study on rats by Dr. George Mashour, 30 seconds after a cardiac arrest, the rodents displayed a short lived surge of widespread, highly synchronised brain activity.

This study tells us that reduction of oxygen and glucose during cardiac arrest can stimulate brain activity, characteristic of conscious processing.

This study has been both praised and dis-regarded the results are still not conclusive, but when it comes to death, there is no reliable evidence, so we have to take what we get from various sources. We will only ever know for ourselves what happens, when we actually die, but then it will be too late to let anyone know. However, it is evident that the conscious brain plays a big role in death and what we see.

This research has been really interesting to me, as it has shown me that my prints relate to the image of death; light and tunnel combination, and knowing that the working brain plays a big role to what we conjure up as we die, is something I can explore further in the text component of my prints.


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