Different Kinds of Near-Death Experience: A Report on a Survey of Near-Death Experiences in Germany

Article (PDF Available)inJournal of Near-Death Studies 20(1):15-29 · September 2001with 1,864 Reads 
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DOI: 10.1023/A:1011112727078
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Abstract
This article provides a short summary of a representative survey on near-death experiences (NDEs) in Germany, which is the first of its kind in Europe. We tested several assumptions derived from previous research on NDEs, including the assumptions of a unified pattern of experience, the universality of the pattern, and the necessary link between NDEs and clinical death. We received replies from more than 2,000 persons, 4 percent of whom reported NDEs. The patterns of the NDEs did not seem to correspond to earlier findings: aside from being much more diverse, they also differed with respect to cultural variables, particularly the difference between religious interpretations and the differences between post-socialist East Germany and West Germany.
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  • ... There are significant variations among NDEs, which could be the result of cultural differences (Carter, 2010). For instance, Knoblauch, Smied, and Schnettler (2001) found significant distinctions between East German and West German participants based on their socio-cultural backgrounds. Not only were the interpretations of the NDEs distinctive, but the content of the experiences differed dramatically. ...
    ... involved meeting with deceased persons, and 13% involved a life review. Knoblauch et al. (2001) surveyed 2,044 people, of whom only 79 (4%) reported communicative NDEs. Among these, 38% claimed to have entered a heavenly realm; ...
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  • ... Thus, the Greyson NDE scale (66), which consists of 16 questions with a maximum of 32 points and an (arbitrary) cut-off of 7 points for a validated NDE, allows conclusions that the phenomenology of NDE appears to be indistinguishable in life-threatening and non-life-threatening situations (11,12,63,72,73) and that the sequence of features is highly variable (63). NDE occur in around 9-13% of cardiac arrest survivors (67,74), and the worldwide prevalence in the general public is around 8-10% (11,12,(68)(69)(70). ...
    ... Supporting the importance of NMDAR hypofunction, ketamine is associated with dissociative properties (75); these properties are a psychiatric feature of NMDAR encephalitis (76); and recreational use of ketamine may induce NDE (10, 12). (11,12,63,(66)(67)(68)(69)(70)(71). The Greyson near-death experience scale (GNDES) is the most often used tool to rate and classify experiences suggestive of NDE (A). ...
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  • ... NDEs are of particular clinical relevance given their frequency of appearance (i.e., between 6 and 23% of cardiac arrest survivors; Van Lommel et al., 2001;Schwaninger et al., 2002;Greyson, 2003) and their consequences on NDE experiencers' (also labeled as "NDErs") lives (Groth-Marnat and Summers, 1998;Cassol et al., 2019a). Numerous aftereffects have been reported, such as the development of a higher spirituality, less materialistic values or a reduced fear of death (Noyes, 1980;Groth-Marnat and Summers, 1998;Knoblauch et al., 2001). ...
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    The neurobiological basis of near-death experiences (NDEs) is unknown, but a few studies attempted to investigate it by reproducing in laboratory settings phenomenological experiences that seem to closely resemble NDEs. So far, no study has induced NDE-like features via hypnotic modulation while simultaneously measuring changes in brain activity using high-density EEG. Five volunteers who previously had experienced a pleasant NDE were invited to re-experience the NDE memory and another pleasant autobiographical memory (dating to the same time period), in normal consciousness and with hypnosis. We compared the hypnosis-induced subjective experience with the one of the genuine experience memory. Continuous high-density EEG was recorded throughout. At a phenomenological level, we succeeded in recreating NDE-like features without any adverse effects. Absorption and dissociation levels were reported as higher during all hypnosis conditions as compared to normal consciousness conditions, suggesting that our hypnosis-based protocol increased the felt subjective experience in the recall of both memories. The recall of a NDE phenomenology was related to an increase of alpha activity in frontal and posterior regions. This study provides a proof-of-concept methodology for studying the phenomenon, enabling to prospectively explore the NDE-like features and associated EEG changes in controlled settings.
  • ... & n o t e s 1 Compared to the large number of people claiming NDEs and the thousands of NDE testimonies available, people seldom appreciate how few of those experients were actually close to death or even clinically dead. Even among hospital patients the majority of so-called NDErs were not actually close to death as shown in a large German study where fewer than 50% of the respondents who claimed NDEs were actually in life-threatening circumstances (see Knoblauch, Schmied, and Schnettler 2001). Two US studies confirm that, based on actual medical records of patients, more than 50% of the patients who claimed NDEs were not actually close to death (see Owens, Cook, and Stevenson 1990). ...
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    The growing body of research on near‐death experiences (NDEs) is an indication of the large number of people claiming such experiences. A surprising feature of the research is that conceptually there is no agreement on what an NDE is and consequently a large number of definitions characterize this field of research. In order to address the definitional quagmire, a first step consists of making sense of NDE definitions. An analysis of existing definitions shows that the term is currently used for at least three distinct phenomena: a cluster of experiences encountered in the process of dying, for that cluster of experiences in circumstances of fear‐death and danger, and for that cluster of experiences independently from any life‐threatening circumstances. Secondly, the nested assumptions that characterize identified patterns in NDE research are identified. It is shown that pro‐survivalists see NDEs as a unitary entity with a single explanation, while others restrict the study of NDEs to life‐threatening circumstances and see them as a cluster of composite experiences. Based on this analysis it is argued that the pattern of experiences labeled NDEs can be modified to circumstance specific alterations of consciousness.
  • ... Similarly, the spirit guide(s) presented in Kardec's work (2010) offer unverifi able but intelligent information about the nature of the afterlife. Spirit guides, or fi gures like them, are frequently reported in Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) as well (Bonenfant, 2000;Dell'Olio, 2010;Knoblauch, 2001), and all behave in much the same way as spirit guides described in other sources. ...
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    Les expériences de mort imminente (EMI) désignent un ensemble d’événements mentaux émotionnellement variés associant des éléments mystiques et spirituels, et survenant généralement suite à une situation de danger réel ou perçu. Ces phénomènes, caractérisés par une phénoménologie riche et une intensité réaliste, peuvent être considérés comme synonymes de crises, en ce sens qu’ils correspondent à des événements charnières et déterminants dans la vie des expérienceurs (personnes ayant vécu une EMI). En effet, après leur EMI, ces personnes présentent généralement une moindre crainte de la mort, sont davantage spirituelles et sont moins matérialistes. Cet impact sur le long terme exige une meilleure caractérisation ainsi qu’une description rigoureuse de ces phénomènes. Des théories psychologiques aux théories sociologiques, en passant par les analyses des récits de ces expériences, cet article s’intéresse à la répercussion de ces phénomènes sur la vie des expérienceurs.
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    Background The origin and prevalence of near-death experiences are unknown. A recent study suggested a link with REM sleep intrusion but was criticized for its selection of control participants. We therefore assessed the association of REM intrusion and near-death experiences with different methods. Methods Using a crowd-sourcing platform, we recruited 1,034 lay people from 35 countries to investigate the prevalence of near-death experiences and self-reported REM sleep intrusion. Reports were validated using the Greyson Near-Death Experiences Scale (GNDES) with ≥7 points as cut-off for near-death experiences. Results Near-death experiences were reported by 106 of 1,034 participants (10%; 95% CI [8.5–12%]). Evidence of REM intrusion was more common in people with near-death experiences ( n = 50∕106; 47%) than in people with experiences with 6 points or less on the GNDES ( n = 47∕183; 26%) or in those without such experiences ( n = 107∕744; 14%; p = < 0.0001). Following multivariate regression analysis to adjust for age, gender, place of residence, employment and perceived danger, this association remained highly significant; people with REM intrusion were more likely to exhibit near-death experiences than those without (OR 2.85; 95% CI [1.68–4.88]; p = 0.0001). Discussion Using a crowd-sourcing approach, we found a prevalence of near-death experiences of 10%. While age, gender, place of residence, employment status and perceived threat do not seem to influence the prevalence of near-death experiences, we confirmed a possible association with REM sleep intrusion.