This interview, on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, caught my ear: http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_7622000/7622456.stm
The University of Southampton is launching the AWARE project – the world’s largest study of Near-Death Experiences – to try and determine the veracity, and perhaps the cause of reported near-death experiences: the warm, welcoming light; the flash-back life-story, the out of body experience.
In particular, what caught my attention was Dr Sam Parnia’s description of one current theory that:
"as the brain is recovering (so the brain has been in a flat-line state during cardiac arrest, during clinical death we’ve now managed to restart it and as the brain is recovering) people maybe start to get some sensory input"
It reminded me very much of Douglas Adams’ thoughts, recounted in The Salmon of Doubt, of watching his baby waking up. Like a computer re-booting, you can see the various systems come on line as the child comes to full consciousness. I always loved that analogy and the above strikes me as a similar insight.
Of course, whether the brain is really exactly like a PC (and clearly not a Mac) or whether it’s just a powerfully appropriate metaphor in the same way that Thor or Zeus seemed pretty sound explanations of lightning, I don’t know but I look forward to any insights from the project.