Dr. Sam Parnia talks about the AWARE study, which is researching out of body experiences by patients during periods of clinical death. 10 to 20 percent of patients who suffer cardiac arrest report memories of consciousness when no electrical activity was measurable in the brain. Many of them report witnessing events that they "should" not have been aware of given their circumstances. Current neuroscience does not allow for this. Of course, if this study reveals interesting findings, science will follow and adjust.
Many people theorize that Near Death Experiences are "false" memories. Others say that minimal brain activity is maintained, despite not showing up on current instruments, and that oxygen deprivation creates the sensation of tunnels, bright lights and a sense of well-being. Others see it all as evidence of a soul. Still others see it as a combination of things. While the existence of souls and an eternity of love for all (in some form beyond my current ability to comprehend) is certainly my hopeful dream, whatever a near death experience is, I say "thanks brain!"
Devising a study would seem to be difficult. Even if these experiences are objectively real, would people watching doctors and nurses attempt to resuscitate them even notice a picture which can only be seen from the ceiling looking down?
Still, it is a fantastic start, and this study could tell us a lot about consciousness. Because of a new instrument being used to measure oxygen in the brain, it could also tell us lot about which types of resuscitation attempts tend to be the most successful at restoring consciousness and avoiding permanent brain damage.
Unfortunately, it will be a few years before the study publishes findings..