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At Mind Matters News: Clarity about life that some demented people experience just before dying

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The phenomenon of terminal lucidity first attracted attention when it appeared among people who were cognitively challenged or demented (because otherwise, it might not have been noticed):


There is no current medical explanation for the phenomenon:

In essence, terminal lucidity is a mysterious flash of life and vitality that occurs in people just before they die. It’s most remarkable in people who have dementia, Alzheimer’s, meningitis, brain damage, strokes or were in a coma. There’s no known medical explanation for where this sudden surge of vitality and functionality comes from. In large part because as suddenly as it comes, within a few hours or even a day or two, it fades and the person dies, taking any answers with them.

ZARON BURNETT, “TERMINAL LUCIDITY: THE RESEARCHERS ATTEMPTING TO PROVE YOUR MIND LIVES ON EVEN AFTER YOU DIE” AT MEDIUM/MEL MAGAZINE (SEPTEMBER 26, 2018)

One researcher of such experiences, University of Vienna cognitive scientist professor Alexander Batthyány, holds the Viktor Frankl Chair of Philosophy, Psychology, at the University of Liechtenstein. He became interested in near-death phenomena through his contact with Frankl, a mid-twentieth century psychiatrist and Auschwitz survivor who stressed the importance of meaning in life, via a clinical approach called logotherapy. Batthyány finds it hard to account for terminal lucidity in terms of the “adaptation for survival” of a human animal:

“What we observe with near-death experiences is that they’re enormously ordered, structured, clear thinking and very elaborate experiences. Which, evolutionarily speaking, they’re not very adaptive, yeah? Quite on the contrary. A near-death experience keeps a person much more peaceful than perhaps they should be when they’re defending against an aggressor like death.”

ZARON BURNETT, “TERMINAL LUCIDITY: THE RESEARCHERS ATTEMPTING TO PROVE YOUR MIND LIVES ON EVEN AFTER YOU DIE” AT MEDIUM/MEL MAGAZINE (SEPTEMBER 26, 2018)

Takehome:

While no medical cause is currently known, understanding how dementia can suddenly reverse itself may help us treat it when it first begins to appear.

News, “Do people suddenly gain clarity about life just before dying?” at Mind Matters News

See also: Your mind vs. your brain: Ten things to know

2 Replies to “At Mind Matters News: Clarity about life that some demented people experience just before dying

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Interesting. Raises the possibility that some of the dementia is overinhibition of function, not missing function. Maybe an autoimmune positive feedback loop, like neural arthritis?

  2. 2
    William J Murray says:

    There are many common (not universal) qualities in near-death experiences, and several rare but inexplicable occurrences, in terms of materialism/physicalism. Hospice workers have shared some of the most amazing accounts of patients nearing death.

    Of course, there is the inexplicable (from certain perspectives) terminal lucidity and capacity. There has also been cases where the dying person is visited by dead relatives they did not know were dead at the time, and in some cases did not even know were relatives at the time. In several cases, the hospice workers and other loved ones around at time see those visiting “dead” people, and hear their voices.

    There are also reports of group experiences, where those in attendance apparently accompany the dying person to the afterlife greeting from others there assembled to welcome the dying “home,” before they find themselves back in the hospital room.

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