AWAreness during REsuscitation – results of the study

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ilustracja rytmu serca

Published: 06-03-2020

Last modified: 03-05-2020

In the article on the Near Death Experiences, I mentioned research that was to answer the question of whether it is possible to separate from the body, which is sometimes reported by survivors of cardiac arrest. Learn about the results of the research.

Awareness during resuscitation

The AWARE study (AWAreness during REsuscitation) was the first study on such a large scale to learn about the experiences of survivors of cardiac arrest. It was run in 15 centers in the USA, Great Britain and Austria, and was chaired by Sam Parnia. What was special about this study, beyond its scale, was the desire to explore the hypothesis of being able to separate from your body and observe yourself from above. There are known stories of people who survived cardiac arrest and after regaining consciousness they claim that they hovered over their body and watched the entire rescue operation from above. They often tell everything they remembered with details. Many scientists do not believe that their mind or soul actually separated from the body and try to explain such stories by the functioning of the brain. Parnia himself, however, decided that you cannot reject the hypothesis of separation from your body without conducting scientific research in this direction and it is worth conducting such research.

How was the AWARE study conducted?

In order to test the hypothesis of the possibility of separation from the bodies, in hospitals participating in the research project were mounted shelves on which various pictures were placed. They were mounted under the ceiling, in places where it was expected that resuscitation could be carried out. They were only visible from the ceiling, so, according to the assumptions, if the patient separated during the resuscitation and remembers everything he/she saw, he/she should also be able to say what was in the picture.

During the research project, over 2,000 cardiac arrests were registered in the hospitals involved, of which 330 were saved by resuscitation. Of this group, 140 people took part in the study. Everyone took part in a short interview, answering general questions about their awareness and memory of events during resuscitation, and the majority (101 people) also took part in the second, more in-depth interview.

Study participants were divided into two groups, the second of which was divided into three subgroups:

  1. Lack of awareness and / or memory
  2. Presence of awareness and / or memory
    1. A detailed memory of experiences that cannot be qualified as NDE (Near Death Experiences)
    2. Detailed memory of NDE experiences, without event memory or awareness during cardiac arrest
    3. Detailed memory of NDE experiences, with auditory and / or visual memory of events during cardiac arrest

Persons who participated only in the first interview were qualified only to the first or second group, without being assigned to a specific subgroup. In order to divide experiences as NDE and non-NDE, the Greyson NDE Scale was used, which consists of 16 questions about different experiences. Each of them can be answered on a 3-point scale (I had no such experience, it was weak, it was strong). The NDE experience is qualified as at least 7 points on this scale.

Study results – is awareness during resuscitation a fact?

To the question from the first interview “Do you remember anything from the time you were unconscious?” 39% of respondents answered in the affirmative.

What did they remember?

The majority – 46 people had experiences that the study authors did not classify as NDE experiences. Most often it was a feeling that everything is happening faster or slower than usual (27 people) and feeling peace and pleasure (22 people). 13 people admitted that their senses were sharper than usual and the same number had a sense of separation from their bodies. Experiences such as review of life scenes, a sense of harmony or unity with the world, entry to another non-terrestrial world, or seeing bright light were present only in a few people. 7 people were also convinced that they knew about things they should not know about from their point of view, as if they perceived extrasensory.

Experiences that could be considered NDE experiences were only present in 9 people, of whom only 2 had auditory or visual awareness of what was happening during resuscitation. Did they see the pictures under the ceiling? In this regard, the study was a bit unsuccessful … It turned out that only 22% of resuscitation was carried out in places where shelves with pictures were hung. These 2 patients did not appear in these 22%.

Despite this, both people were invited for further, in-depth interview. One of them could not participate due to health condition. The second one, however, told his memories in detail. This person, a 57-year-old man, remembered watching events from the upper corner of the room. He described in detail the people, sounds and events that took place during resuscitation. The medical records confirm his story. Based on the documentation and his story, the study’s authors concluded that he could be aware for up to 3 minutes during the period of cardiac arrest.

The results of the study did not answer the most bothering question. They confirmed, however, that it is possible to remember events from the period of cardiac arrest, although this happens very rarely and we still have no explanation for this phenomenon. We also do not have devices with which we can say with certainty that a given person is not aware. The results of this study and previous studies show that while the devices that doctors use to monitor the body’s functions indicate a lack of awareness, it is possible that the patient at this moment, however, has preserved awareness…


Parnia S. et al. (2014). AWARE – AWAreness during REsuscitation – A prospective study. Resuscitation 10/2014, 1-7 (pdf at

Author: Maja Kochanowska

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