Another common element of LREs was the inclusion of deeply emotional experiences from the perspective of others close to them. Here’s what another participant had to say: ‘‘I could individually go into each person and I could feel the pain that they had in their life … I was allowed to see that part of them and feel for myself what they felt.” Another one: “I was seeing, feeling these things about him [my father], and he was sharing with me the things of his early childhood and how things were difficult for him. In fact, all interviewees in the study said after their LRE, they had experienced a major change in perspective regarding significant people in their lives or important life events. (In an interview, Katz said that she found this to be the most interesting part of the study’s findings.)
Taken together, the authors wrote, the common threads across all the LREs don’t just add credence to the argument that the phenomenon is real — they also help push researchers closer to a definition. To truly understand LREs, though, scientists would have to identify what’s happening in the brain as they’re happening. To that end, Katz and her colleagues offered up a few theories as to which regions of the brain might be involved, focusing on areas that store autobiographical memories. The prefrontal, medial temporal, or parietal cortices, all of which fall into that category, also happen to be particularly vulnerable to hypoxia and blood loss resulting from traumatic near-death experiences.