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CO2 & Near-Death Experiences

April 27, 2010

Scientists discover a possible physiological explanation for near-death experiences.


The chemistry of near-death experiences…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

It’s time for another episode of our new series, (eerie music) Reality Check, where we investigate weird phenomena and science folklore. People who undergo near-death experiences often describe seeing a light at the end of a tunnel or a feeling a deep sense of peace. Many even view this as proof of the existence of god. But researchers at the University of Maribor in Slovenia have identified a possible physiological explanation. Doctor Zalika Kelmenc-Ketis and her colleagues found that among patients who had suffered a cardiac arrest, those who had near death experiences had higher levels of carbon dioxide on their blood.

ZALIKA KLEMENC-KETIS (University of Maribor, Slovenia):
This result indicated that CO2 may play a role in near death experiences.

She says high-altitude climbers often describe similar experiences, and also have elevated levels of CO2. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.