So what can we glean from the results of the AWARE study?
This is my take:
- A useful data collection and cardiac event monitoring study is simply a gargantuan task. AWARE produced just one result that could be explored and measured to a semi useful end. That is 1 in roughly 2000 cases initially recorded. This took 4 years for a team study across 15 different hospitals. The 1 useful case can not really be described as a positive ‘hit’ as such, as it missed the use of the visual stimulation aspect of the experiment, but a more satisfactory pool of similar cases to analyse and compare would be say 5 testable veridical recalls. That’s basically a project 5 times the size of the AWARE study. Ideally, a completion in half the length of time would be preferable too. Such a feat would require a study across 150 hospitals. Could that even be possible? Unlikely. Dr Parnia and the study organisers probably used their contacts and sources to the max. Even if such staffing logistics and establishment cooperation could be met, we would still be needing to raise a fund 10 times that of the AWARE study costs. A more realistic proposition would to implement an open ended study that has periodical updates and assessments. The study then could be expanded or not according to any available funds at the time.
- A key issue with AWARE was with the location of cardiac arrest events and subsequent resuscitation efforts. Only 22% of the monitored cases occurred in an experimental control area, where specific visual stimuli had been set up to test against. Unfortunately, the one case of ‘validated’ interest was not in such an area. This is something that must be addressed for future studies. Personally, I am surprised that this was not anticipated given the organisers’ experience of in hospital resuscitation procedure. Consideration perhaps could be given to the design of a portable test facility, perhaps as part of existing mobile resuscitation equipment.
- The actual timeline of true events as a recording of reality needs to be more specific. The AWARE results paper does not detail how the goings on of each event was recorded. I believe it is standard practise for a member of a full crash / resuscitation team in some countries to be responsible for noting all actions and responses during an arrest, but this is unlikely to have happened for all cases. In the one case of interest, it is unclear how many people were present, with 2 being specifically mentioned. For future studies, audio/visual recording should be considered as a reliable test reference. Again, this would have to be conceived as portable apparatus. For reference and analysis purposes, recording could also be applied to the patient interviews (if not already done so). Audio / visual recording does entail a lot legal implications and necessary clearance and permission paperwork but would result in a far superior body of data for peer study.
- Finally, the case of the man whose recollections appear to be veridically correct highlights the need for solid testable methods and apparatus, largely as discussed above. A visual match with orchestrated visual stimuli would be the strongest result for questioning the mind body relationship during the dying process. An definitive audio match would lead at least to serious questions about current knowledge of this relationship, and particularly the understanding of measured brain functionality . Unfortunately, the cardiac event took place without visual stimuli and the audio stimuli was not of a unique planned orchestration. Thus, in my opinion there are reasonable possibilities within common understanding that could account for the recollections. The automatic defibrillator sounds are likely not an uncommon sound within various parts of a hospital, particularly in critical care areas. The fact that the physician involved in the resuscitation visited the man in his care duties could well contribute to the visual aspect of the recollection. It is important to understand here, that memories are not necessarily true recollections of actual events, and could be built at any time in the course of a recovering brain. I believe it is perfectly reasonable to suggest that audio and visual data could contribute to a feeling of memory in a patient recovering from such an event as cardiac arrest. It is understanding this that shows how solid veridical testing of OBE at NDE is crucial for validity in dying brain activity research.
In conclusion, I find the results of AWARE highly interesting, and the case of the man who had his recollection ‘validated’ exciting. It is a case I believe that warrants further exploration of this subject, and more finely tuned similar experimentation / study. Because of the shortfalls in circumstances described above, it does not for me sit much higher than with already established anecdotal cases involving professionals in scientific / medical surrounds.
The case for me is still too anecdotal. The methodology of future study needs to be refined to firm up further potentially exciting cases. It’s a big ask, needing big human resource cooperation, not to mention big money. Also, inception of new apparatus for stimulation and recording that suits the random nature of cardiac arrest locations, whilst not being disruptive to the resuscitation process, is I believe a necessary pre quest to the next study. Such apparatus could also include specific audio stimuli as well as visual. In the pre study, audio stimulation was experimented with but not included in the method of the main study, due to, I believe impracticality and fear of interference with the resuscitation process.
There is effort going ahead to implement a second phase study to AWARE.
More details to follow…..