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Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 13:20 EDT

CO2 Could Be Cause Of Near Death Experiences

April 8, 2010

Near death experiences (NDEs) witnessed by people during heart attacks, other catastrophic health issues, or potentially fatal accidents could just be the result of increased carbon dioxide levels in the blood, according to research published in the Critical Care journal.

Lead author Zalika Klemenc-Ketis and a team of researchers from the University of Maribor in Slovenia examined 52 patients (42 men, 10 women) who had suffered cardiac arrest, including 11 that had experienced “sensations such as life flashing before the eyes, feelings of peace and joy, and apparent encounters with mystical entities,” according to an April 8 press release.

They discovered that CO2 levels of the 11 who reported near-death experiences were higher than those found in the blood of the 41 others. Furthermore, no correlation was found to exist in regards to the patients’ sex, age, level of education, religious beliefs, recovery time, attitudes towards death, or drugs given during resuscitation.

“Several theories explaining the mechanisms of NDEs exist. We found that in those patients who experienced the phenomenon, blood carbon dioxide levels were significantly higher than in those who did not,” Klemenc-Ketis said in the media statement. “Our study adds new and important information to the field of NDE phenomena. The association with carbon dioxide has never been reported before, and deserves further study.”

In an interview with BBC News, cardiologist Dr. Pim van Lommel, also an expert in the field of near-death experiences, called the findings “interesting” but noted that the University of Maribor researchers “have not found a cause–merely an association. I think this is something that will remain one of the great mysteries of mankind. The tools scientists have are simply not sufficient to explain it.”

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