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Spiritual States & the Brain

Date: 03-08-12
Host: George Noory
Guests: Dr. Kevin Nelson, R. Gary Patterson

World-renowned neurologist Dr. Kevin Nelson discussed his thirty years of cutting-edge research in the field of near-death experience (NDE), and how spirituality is experienced in the brain. "In many ways, near-death experience is the dominant spiritual experience of our time, it's how we touch what we consider to be divine," he said. Yet, with his focus on brain function, he suggested that the concept of life-after-death is a non-science issue that relates more to an individual's faith. Interestingly, he reported that by stimulating a region of the temporal parietal area of the brain with an electrical current, and out-of-body experience can be produced at the flip of a switch.

He outlined some of the "borderlands of consciousness," states that fall between consciousness and unconsciousness, when the brain is not getting enough blood flow. For instance, when a person faints or goes into cardiac arrest, sometimes their eyes remain open, and they are seeing and hearing what is going on, even if they can't communicate. Nelson cited the case of a woman named Jan who was accidentally shot and had a near-death experience during surgery, while she was still awake. "When my heart was being massaged, I became aware of a faint light off to my left. When I noticed it, an incredible sense of love, comfort, and caring washed over me. I then sensed the presence of my deceased mother, telling me it was not yet my time to die and that she would help me," she said.

The brain has three different states, awake, asleep, and asleep with REM, though there can be mixtures such as awake + REM (which is sometimes associated with sleep paralysis hallucinations). During the REM state, the brain's visual system is robustly activated, but the dorsal lateral area of the brain which governs logic is deactivated, which explains why bizarre elements of dreams are accepted as real, he noted, adding that this may also be a factor in NDEs. Dr. Nelson plans to study fainting in laboratory conditions, as it's a model of altered consciousness that can be safely recreated.

Patterson Commentary

First hour guest, rock historian R. Gary Patterson talked about some of the recent deaths in the music industry such as Whitney Houston. He also commented on how the music world has changed with the rise of digital tracks, streaming audio, and star-making shows like American Idol and The Voice. Check out a video clip Gary sent us from his DVD, "Take a Walk On the Darkside: Rock and Roll Myths, Legends and Curses."

News segment guests: Mitch Battros, Jerome Corsi

Bumper Music

Bumper music from Thursday March 08, 2012

  • One
    Three Dog Night

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