New data from a scientific "accident" has suggested that life may actually flash before our eyes as we die.
A team of scientists set out to measure the brainwaves of an 87-year-old patient who had developed epilepsy. But during the neurological recording, he suffered a fatal heart attack - offering an unexpected recording of a dying brain.
It revealed that in the 30 seconds before and after, the man's brainwaves followed the same patterns as dreaming or recalling memories.
Brain activity of this sort could suggest that a final "recall of life" may occur in a person's last moments, the team wrote in their study, published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscienceon Tuesday.
Dr Ajmal Zemmar, a co-author of the study, said that what the team, then based in Vancouver, Canada, accidentally got, was the first-ever recording of a dying brain.
So will we get a glimpse back at time with loved ones and other happy memories? Dr Zemmar said it was impossible to tell.
"If I were to jump to the philosophical realm, I would speculate that if the brain did a flashback, it would probably like to remind you of good things, rather than the bad things," he said.
"But what's memorable would be different for every person."
Dr Zemmar, now a neurosurgeon at the University of Louisville, said in the 30 seconds before the patient's heart stopped supplying blood to the brain, his brainwaves followed the same patterns as when we carry out high-cognitive demanding tasks, like concentrating, dreaming or recalling memories. It continued 30 seconds after the patient's heart stopped beating.
"I think there's something mystical and spiritual about this whole near-death experience," Dr Zemmar said. "And findings like this - it's a moment that scientists lives for."