Event Abstract

Near-death experiences in patients with locked-in syndrome

  • 1 University of Liège, Cyclotron Research Centre & Neurology Department, Belgium
  • 2 International Association For Near Death Studies (IANDS), France

Objectives: Memories of Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) most often are recounted as emotionally positive events [1-3]. At present, no satisfactory explanatory model exits to fully account for the rich phenomenology of NDEs following a severe acute brain injury [4]. Neurobiological hypotheses include cerebral hypoxia and temporal lobe dysfunctions to account for some of the features occurring during NDEs [5-7]. The particular population of patients with locked-in syndrome (LIS) provides a unique opportunity to study NDEs following infratentorial brain lesions. Methods: We here retrospectively characterized the content of NDEs in 8 patients with LIS caused by an acute brainstem lesion (i.e., “LIS NDEs”) and 23 NDE experiencers after coma with supratentorial lesions (i.e., “classical NDEs”). Both groups were matched for age, gender, etiology and interval since NDE. Results: Compared to “classical NDEs”, “LIS NDEs” less frequently experienced positive emotions and more frequently reported autobiographical memory flashbacks. Conclusions: It could be hypothesized that negative NDEs might have a specific neuroanatomical substrate related to impaired pontine/paralimbic connectivity [3-4,9-11] or alternatively might be related to the emotional distress caused by the presence of conscious awareness in a paralyzed body [11].

Figure 1


We thank the patients, their families and the Association for Locked-in Syndrome (ALIS; France) and particularly V. Blandin and F. Pellas who helped with patient recruitment. This work was supported by the Belgian National Funds for Scientific Research (FNRS), European Commission, James McDonnell Foundation, Mind Science Foundation, French Speaking Community Concerted Research Action.


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Keywords: near-death experience, locked-in syndrome, brainstem lesions, Coma, Memory, negative emotions.

Conference: Belgian Brain Council 2014 MODULATING THE BRAIN: FACTS, FICTION, FUTURE, Ghent, Belgium, 4 Oct - 4 Oct, 2014.

Presentation Type: Poster Presentation

Topic: Clinical Neuroscience

Citation: Charland-Verville V, Lugo Z, Jourdan J and Laureys S (2014). Near-death experiences in patients with locked-in syndrome. Conference Abstract: Belgian Brain Council 2014 MODULATING THE BRAIN: FACTS, FICTION, FUTURE. doi: 10.3389/conf.fnhum.2014.214.00016

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Received: 26 Jun 2014; Published Online: 27 Jun 2014.

* Correspondence: Ms. Vanessa Charland-Verville, University of Liège, Cyclotron Research Centre & Neurology Department, Liège, 4000, Belgium, vanessa.charland-verville@ulg.ac.be