Center for Consciousness Science Symposium: Near-death Experience
October 5, 2023
Rackham Amphitheatre, University of Michigan

The Center for Consciousness Science announces its 2023 Symposium that will focus on Near-death Experience (NDE).  

Near-death experience (NDE) has captivated humanity throughout history. As mortal beings, we are bound to confront the end of life eventually, and the way we or our loved ones pass away holds great significance for many. NDE encompasses a broad spectrum of experiences, occurring when individuals are objectively on the verge of death or when they subjectively believe they are. These experiences, reported across diverse cultural and religious backgrounds, are characterized by a heightened sense of lucidity and realism. They challenge the notion that consciousness dissipates when the brain ceases functioning, as NDEs often involve a state of internal awareness during an otherwise unresponsive condition. 

Traditionally, the moment of death was believed to be an abrupt termination of all cerebral processes. However, NDEs present a perplexing biological paradox that defies our fundamental understanding of the dying brain, which is commonly perceived as nonfunctioning under such circumstances. Many proponents argue that NDEs offer evidence for the mind’s separation or independence from the body and brain, suggesting the possibility of an afterlife. Yet, investigations into the neurological aspects of NDEs suggest that specific brain mechanisms may be implicated in these experiences. Consequently, neurologists and cognitive scientists are now delving into the study of consciousness and its functional and neural mechanisms within specific regions of the brain. 

It is plausible that the dying process could reactivate the human brain, giving rise to NDEs. Conscious awareness, as reported during NDEs, may occur when there is residual brain electrical activity following cardiac arrest. Thus, NDEs offer a unique opportunity to explore the neural underpinnings of consciousness during an unresponsive state. By unraveling the mysteries of NDEs, researchers seek to shed light on the nature of consciousness and its intricate relationship with the brain, challenging our current understanding of life, death, and the boundaries of human existence. 

Confirmed keynote lectures:

Impact of near-death experience research on models of consciousness
Charlotte Martial, PhD
Postdoctoral Researcher, Neuropsychologist
Coma Science Group
Quartier Hôpital

Neural correlates of covert consciousness in the dying brain
Jimo Borjigin, PhD
Associate Professor, Neuroscientist
Molecular & Integrative Physiology and Neurology
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Paradoxical Lucidity: Findings from an NIA-Supported Initiative
Basil Eldadah, MD PhD
Supervisory Medical Officer
Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology (DGCG)
NIH/National Institute on Aging

Lectures will be followed by a panel discussion with the speakers and invited participants, including physicians and patients and questions from the audience.

The full program will be posted at a later date. Attendance is free but may be limited by the auditorium space. Advance registration by non-UM employees will be required — registration information will be available soon. For further information contact Kathy Zelenock at