Near-Death Experiences (NDEs)

Near-Death Experiences are intensely vivid and often life-transforming experiences, many of which occur under extreme physiological conditions such as trauma, ceasing of brain activity, deep general anesthesia or cardiac arrest in which no awareness or sensory experiences should be possible according to the prevailing views in neuroscience.

View Dr. Bruce Greyson’s informative personal Website.
Dr. Bruce Greyson

Dr. Bruce Greyson interviewing a near-death experiencer

A near-death experience, or NDE, is a common pattern of events that many people experience when they are experiencing intense threat, are seriously ill or come close to death.

Although NDEs vary from one person to another, they often include such features as the following:

  • feeling very comfortable and free of pain
  •  a sensation of leaving the body, sometimes being able to see the physical body while floating above it
  •  the mind functioning more clearly and more rapidly than usual
  • a sensation of being drawn into a tunnel or darkness
  • a brilliant light, sometimes at the end of the tunnel
  • a sense of overwhelming peace, well-being, or absolute, unconditional love
  • a sense of having access to unlimited knowledge
  • a “life review,” or recall of important events in the past
  • a preview of future events yet to come
  • encounters with deceased loved ones, or with other beings that may be identified as religious figures

While these features are commonly reported, many NDEs differ from this pattern and include other elements. For example, some near-death experiences may be frightening or distressing rather than peaceful. We are interested in hearing about all kinds of near-death and similar experiences, and in studying their effect on persons who have them.

Veridical NDEs

We are particularly interested in studying NDEs that may bear on the question of whether the mind can function outside the physical body, and on whether we may survive bodily death. One such type of experience is the so-called veridical NDE, in which experiencers acquire verifiable information that they could not have obtained by any normal means. For example, some experiencers report seeing events going on at some distant location, such as another room of the hospital; or an experiencer might meet a deceased loved one who then communicates verifiable information the experiencer had not known. Other kinds of NDEs that may bear on the mind/body question include those in which mental functioning seems to be enhanced despite physiological evidence that the brain is impaired.

The causes of NDEs are complex and not fully known. While many medical and psychological explanations have been offered, they remain speculative and often fall short of explaining the entire phenomenon.

Seeking Support About Your Own Near-death Experience?

If you have had an NDE and would like access to a support group of others who have had NDEs, please refer to the international list of support groups found on the website of the International Association of Near-Death Studies (IANDS). 

Experience: Anita Moorjani

Bruce Greyson, Anita Moorjani and Brian Walker, May 2019

Dr. Bruce Greyson, Anita Moorjani and Dr. Brian Walker visiting DOPS, May 2019

Author and NDE experiencer Anita Moorjani, and her former doctor, Dr. Brian Walker, visited Dr. Greyson at DOPS in May of 2019.

They had a lively discussion on the topic, which you can view here: video of Anita Moorjani and Dr. Brian Walker. Dr. Walker was a witness to Anita’s severely deteriorated medical condition before she had her profound NDE.

In her best selling book “Dying to Be Me“, Anita writes about the life affirming changes she experienced after her NDE. In the book she describes the events and serious medical illness which led to her profound near-death experience.

Experience: Dr. Eben Alexander

Dr. Bruce Greyson, Anita Moorjani, and Dr. Eben Alexander visting DOPS, May 2019

Dr. Bruce Greyson, Anita Moorjani, and Dr. Eben Alexander visting DOPS, May 2019

Authors and near-death experiencers Eben Alexander and Anita Moorjani had complex, medically documented illnesses at the time they experienced their NDEs. Both were gravely ill, and their recoveries astounded and perplexed the attending medical professionals.

Eben wrote a best selling book describing his transformative near-death experience and the dire medical circumstances leading up to them. His best selling book is called “Proof of Heaven“.

Eben Alexander granted Dr. Greyson permission to review his medical records resulting in Dr. Greyson’s academic analysis of this case which can be seen here (pdf).

Fifty Years of Research

Bruce Greyson and Marieta Pehlivanova

Dr. Bruce Greyson and Dr. Marieta Pehlivanova collaborate on NDE research

Dr. Bruce Greyson began his research into near-death experiences here at the University of Virginia in the mid-1970’s. Over his long year career, Dr. Bruce Greyson has studied more than a thousand experiencers and documented the profound effects on individuals’ attitudes, beliefs, values, and personalities. His research has also shown why these experiences cannot be dismissed as dream states or hallucinations.

With future development and continuity of the ongoing NDE research in mind, Dr. Greyson has continued to collaborate with esteemed scientific colleagues from all around the world, even after his retirement in 2015. At DOPS, he works with Dr. Marieta Pehlivanova, providing mentorship and collaborating with her on a variety of ongoing research projects involving immediate and long-lasting effects of NDEs.

Dr. Greyson’s large body of innovative and important scientifically conducted research challenges us to consider what NDEs can teach us about the relationship between our brain and our mind, expanding our understanding of consciousness, and of what it means to be human.