Neurons do something strange when starved of oxygen. First, they start firing randomly. Then they start to shut down. If they don’t receive precious oh-two soon, they start to die.
This sequence is, of course, an oversimplification. You’ll find counter examples all over the place.
Even so, this sequence explains a lot.
When certain parts of the brain (the temporal lobe and a few others) start misfiring, you receive a flood of memories. This can vary from an unusual montage of random events to full-blown hallucinations.
When the whole brain starts firing randomly, that’s a seizure. But when parts of it spark off for no reason, it can create predictable effects. For example, in the occipital lobe, this can lead to seeing a spinning vortex of light. It’s dark around the edges, probably because peripheral vision shuts down first.
Even your sense of balance can do weird things. The misfires followed by a shutdown can create the sense that every direction is the same.
And if the left brain weakens first (or the right brain starts misfiring more intensely), then you receive an incredible sense of peace, knowledge and connection to the universe. Even as your consciousness fades.
When conditions are right, you get a sense of floating, hallucinations, your life flashing before your eyes and the ‘light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel’ effect.
And there you have it: a plausible, mundane explanation for near death experiences.
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