Your brain is still active after your heart stops, study reveals truth about death

Research shows that your brain remains active after your heart stops beating.

Brain active when dead
© Olga Kononenko / UNSPLASH
Brain active when dead

We are fascinated by death: we want to know exactly what happens to the body after we die, and whether there’s an afterlife or not. There’s a whole lot of speculation over biological processes and reincarnation. One prevailing question remains: does a dying person know when they are dying?

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Well, this discussion has recently been brought to the forefront once again thanks to TikToker and podcast host Jade, known also as @jade.loves.crime. She spooked her followers with the revelation that the brain is still kicking after the heart stops beating. Let’s have a look into what she said, and the research that backs up such a creepy claim.

Jade’s creepy claim

The TikToker wrote, ‘Did you know that when your heart stops and you clinically die, your brain keeps trucking and appears to know that you're dead?’. She didn’t stop there:

In fact, there have been recorded cases where people have been able to intelligently communicate after their heart stopped beating.
Think of it like anaesthesia, that medicine just hit your IV but you have a few seconds to speak before the lights go out.

Jade did explain that this does not necessarily mean you will be aware of what is going on. She continued, ‘You might have around 6-11 seconds where you are but then the brain is on its own. It's the last worker - to stay late, close up shop and shut off all of the lights. It's remarkable how the body and brain just knows how to die.’

Indeed, research from the University of Western Ontario revealed in 2017 that, although you are considered dead when your heart stops beating, your brain keeps running for a few minutes longer.

The research behind the claim

Let’s take a look at a more recent study. In 2023, a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked into the brain’s activity after the heart stops. It provides evidence of a surge of activity in the brain correlated with consciousness in a dying person. The study, led by Jimo Borjigin, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Molecular & Integrative Physiology and the Department of Neurology, focused on four people. These patients had suffered cardiac arrests and were comatose; they were deemed to be beyond medical help.

With the families’ permission, they were removed from life support. Tracking their brain activity, the study found something incredible: in two of the patients, there was ‘an increase in heart rate along with a surge of gamma wave activity, considered the fastest brain activity and associated with consciousness’. This is the same pattern recorded in healthy people when they are recalling a memory, learning or dreaming. Therefore, there is reason to believe that the brain is very much running - and perhaps the conscious - during these bursts of activity.

Borjigin said ‘the observed findings are definitely exciting and provide a new framework for our understanding of covert consciousness in the dying humans’.

It will take a larger sample size to get a clearer picture of what really goes on in our minds when we die, but these findings are certainly hard to wrap your head around!

Read more:

Study reveals the surprising phenomenon that happens in your brain right before you die

Man dies and comes back to life after ambulance runs over pothole

Man who died for 28 minutes reveals what death was like

Sources used:

Michigan Medicine: Evidence of conscious-like activity in the dying brain

Science: Burst of brain activity during dying could explain life passing before your eyes

LadBible: People 'freaking out' over disturbing process that happens to your body after you die

Study reveals the surprising phenomenon that happens in your brain right before you die Study reveals the surprising phenomenon that happens in your brain right before you die