Update of The COOL Study led by Dr Mario Beauregard

23 Sep

With advances in technology it is now possible to conduct surgery that would previously have been considered impossible. Deep Hypothermic Cardiac Arrest (DHCA) is a procedure induced while the patient is anaesthetised. This procedure is used during some intricate cardiovascular and neurosurgical operations. The metabolism and electrical activity in the brain are reduced intentionally by cooling the body to 18°C or lower. Perfusion of oxygen to the brain is enhanced by external techniques. During this state there is no heart beat or breathing –  meeting the criteria for clinical death while being monitored under controlled conditions.

 There are anecdotal reports from patients who have undergone this procedure that they recalled cognitive, emotional and perceptual awareness during the procedure (see the case of Pam Reynolds reported by Dr Michael Sabom). This procedure is highly important to investigating if consciousness can occur when there is no electrical brain activity. 

 The COOL study led by Dr Mario Beauregard of Montreal University has retrospectively studied patients who underwent DHCA at Hôpital Sacré-Coeur, a research hospital affiliated with the Université de Montréal, from 2005 – 2010.

With regards to the prospective aspect of this study, Dr Mario Beauregard has informed me by email that the prospective study at present is on hold because the surgeon involved with the study has relocated to another hospital.

However, the retrospective study has revealed the very interesting case of a 31 year old patient who reported some aspects of conscious awareness during the procedure. Dr Beauregard has written up this case and will submit it for publication.

I look forward to reading the full details of the case when it is published.

Let’s hope the prospective aspect of the study will proceed sometime soon because it is cutting edge studies like this that enhance our understanding and knowledge of consciousness.

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25 Responses to “Update of The COOL Study led by Dr Mario Beauregard”

  1. tim September 23, 2011 at 6:05 pm #

    That’s fascinating, Penny, thanks so much for that.
    The Reynolds case (of this type > cardiac standstill) is still being regularly hotly debated even now. The sceptics still maintaining that there was nothing unusual in it because her observations occured before standstill (even though she was loaded up with barbiturate protection > Spetzler’s words)
    Her NDE did appear to continue through standstill though because she reported the Hotel California song at the end of the operation and also seeing her body jump etc. I cannot envisage how she could have re-commenced having the same dream (or confabulated hallucination or whatever sceptics choose to propose ) as before where she left off (at standsill) after all, her short term memory circuits should have been wiped when the blood was drained from her head.

    These cases are going to very perplexing for those who wish to maintain the status quo.

    • Dr Penny Sartori September 24, 2011 at 11:00 am #

      HI Tim, yes these cases are very perplexing and I think they signify that we really do need to expand our thinking if we want a greater understanding of consciousness. Thats why this kind of research is so important. We are developing technology that is allowing us to explore aspects of consciousness that we’ve previoulsy been unable to explore. When interesting cases arise then it is important to evaluate them from all angles and try to find logical explanations for them. However, when such explanations cannot be found then rather than discard these cases or try to explain them away I think it is time to look for alternative explanations.

      As more research is conducted so more cases will arise and eventually there will be a greater consensus in seeking more fitting explanations.

  2. Michael Duggan September 23, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

    Hi Penny. Thanks for the update. Looking forward to reading the publication.

  3. Jake October 3, 2011 at 1:05 am #

    Penny- as you probably know, some people can induce OOBE on their own, whether this is through meditation or other means.

    My question has always been, why don’t these people use a playing card or some other test to verify that the experience is real and not a hallucination. It would be one of the biggest breakthroughs of all time, obviously. We hear all the time about people hearing conversations, etc, but never see actual proof.

    After reading some on a forum, apparently some of the members tried it and didn’t get the correct playing card. To me, this points towards self-induced OOBE as being hallucinatory.

    My question is, what does this mean for NDE OOBE? Are the two the same, or are they different? As much as I want NDE to be real, I can’t force myself to believe something without sufficient proof.

    Also this is a good update about the COOL study. A little vague as to how convincing it will be, but let’s hope for the best!

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 4, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

      Hi Jake, yes, it’s fascinating that some people can induce an OBE. Professor Charles Tart has done many experiments of this kind and if I remember correctly, there was one case where one of his subjects correctly reported a sequence of numbers that was hidden on top of a clock above her bed. However, the experiment was criticised because it was the days before video cameras were widely available so it couldn’t be ruled out that she hadn’t climbed up on the bed to view the numbers. There were quite a few experiments of this type carried out in the 60’s and 70’s and there is a summary of these in the book Irreducible Mind edited by Edwards and Emily Williams Kelly et al.

      There is the possibility that self induced OBEs may not be the same as OBEs that occur in near-death conditions. It would be interesting to undertake more experiments into induced OBEs and then compare them with those reports of OBEs that occur during near-death situations. Hopefully there will be some interesting results from the AWARE study which is currently underway and also from the COOL study – the case that Dr Beauregard has written up for the COOL study will be very interesting to read about when it is published.

      • Jake October 5, 2011 at 5:58 am #

        I have read about that one case, which has been the most cited proof of OOBE. My problem is it occurred such a long time ago and there were no follow ups I can think of that produced the same results. You would think that somebody would reproduce it. This is, after all, the biggest question humanity has ever faced… whether consciousness can occur outside the brain.

        Especially today, in the age of the million dollar challenge, you would think if they weren’t hallucinatory somebody would have proven it by now. It just seems crazy that nobody has…

        I agree it is extremely important to keep researching this material, and I’m glad the AWARE and COOL studies are taking place. To be honest, I don’t believe they will produce positive results. I just feel that if consciousness could exist outside of the brain, we would have proof by now.

        Regardless, the truth is we just don’t know yet. Not even atheists can say we have consciousness figured out. I’m a little nervous to see the results of these studies, but at the same time I want to find out.

      • Dr Penny Sartori October 5, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

        Hi Jake, yes you have a good point. It’s quite amazing that the Charles Tart experiment hasn’t been replicated. I’m not sure why this is – it could be because there has been reduced interest in pursuing this or simply that there are very few universities that show an interest in this important work. Also funding for this kind of research is severely lacking in comparison to other areas of research. Most of the studies into NDEs that have been conducted have been undertaken by a very small number of dedicated people who have done this work in their own time and with no or very little funding – there is little incentive unless there is a real fascination to pursue this kind of work.

        You’re right – no one has consciousness figured out. The current scientific belief that consciousness is created by the brain appears to have limited our understanding of consciousness as this has never been proven but has been taken as a priori. Therefore anything that doesn’t fit in with this belief has been discarded until recently. However, the fact that studies like AWARE and COOL are currently being undertaken is a really positive achievement in itself and the area of consciousness studies is growing all the time. I am optimistic that more research will continue in this area and we will learn much more about consciousness as a result – these are really exciting times.

    • tim October 7, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

      I just feel that if consciousness could exist outside of the brain, we would have proof by now.

      Hi, Jake,
      Proof is a different matter. I think I am correct in saying that nothing can be ‘proved’ absolutely 100%

      What we have with NDE’s is a large body of very good evidence that cannot be written off by sceptical explanations. People see themselves during cardiac arrest etc and obtain accurate information and that shouldn’t happen. I believe it will take many years to get enough veridical hits to cause the establishment to change their minds, but I have no doubt at all that it will happen.

      • Jake October 9, 2011 at 2:57 am #

        True. I don’t think anybody could be 100% certain either way. There are a lot of good arguments from both sides. Originally i saw them as proof of the afterlife, now I’m closer to thinking they are due to the brain. I have too many problems with them to believe for certain they are spiritual, but I am certainly open to the possibility. For example, too many similarities between them and DMT/OOBE, which I think are hallucinatory. Again, there are problems in this argument, but it still has valid points.

        I’ve heard many reports about people seeing stuff outside their bodies that can’t be explained away, but very few cases that are well documented. We still hear about Pam Reynolds all the time, but not much else. That case is like 2 decades old and people have NDE all the time.

        My question is in how many cases did NDErs see events that DIDN’T actually happen? I very much doubt these would be reported, but they would be good evidence for them being hallucinatory. I don’t know how often that happens, however.

        I’m a skeptic, but a reasonable one. If this AWARE study shows a hit or two for the mysterious pictures, you can sign me up as a believer. I just don’t see it happening.

    • Max_B October 7, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

      I have to say, I’m sceptical that our individual conciousness can exist without the brain, or indeed outside of the brain. I’m also sceptical that NDE’s tell us anything about what happens after death. It stands to reason that the brains of those people who have reported NDE’s were did not die.

      What I am accepting of, is the huge numbers of reports from everyday people who obtain information from the past (apparitions), obtain information from the future (premonitions), or obtain information over space (telepathy). These experiences, also seem to be linked to our dreams, emotions and memory in my view. None of which can be explained by current mainstream science.

      The only thing that at present which appears to have any hope of explaining these human experiences is quantum mechanics. Indeed, I’m seeing more and more research which appears to be pointing towards the brain in particular, as being some sort of quantum computer, receiver/broadcaster, filter etc.

      If so, it would certainly open up the possibility of quantum effects on the brain over both space and time, and therefore opens up the likelihood that we are to some extent linked over both space and time. That in my view is a much more likely reason for these currently unexplained experiences such as OBE’s, Telepathy, NDE’s, Dreams, Apparitions, and Premonitions.

      • Jake October 9, 2011 at 3:03 am #

        Interesting. You don’t think consciousness can exist outside the brain, yet you believe in the bran being a receiver/filter and paranormal experiences? What do you think happens when we die then?

        I generally see people fall in one of two camps. You kind of seem to be in both.

      • tim October 9, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

        ‘It stands to reason that the brains of those people who have reported NDE’s did not die.’

        Hi, Max,
        The term near death experience was of course coined by Raymond Moody thirty five years ago but is not really adequate to describe all the cases it purports to cover. Sam Parnia uses the term TDE (temporary death experience) when he refers to the type of cases he studies (in the main) because cardiac arrest and death are synonomous. So any person reporting a NDE (in the broad sense) after cardiac arrest was indeed actually dead.

        “I’m also sceptical that NDE’s tell us anything about what happens after death.”

        Therefore when using cardiac arrest as the model for studying NDE’s it certainly is reasonable to assume that the experiences reported tell us what the process of death is actually like.

  4. Max_B October 9, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

    @Jake: Yes, I’m sceptical that our ‘individual’ consciousness can exist without the brain, or outside of the brain…(stressing the ‘individual’ part).

    @tim: If a patient is able to report an NDE, the patients brain didn’t die, therefore the patients brain can’t have been dead. As very similar experiences to NDE’s happen all the time to the ‘living’, getting hung-up on cardiac arrest patients NDE’s as somehow different, because somebody has defined them as ‘dead’, doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, other than to demonstrate the definition is too vague, and that current scientific understanding of the brain is incomplete.

    “Therefore when using cardiac arrest as the model for studying NDE’s it certainly is reasonable to assume that the experiences reported tell us what the process of death is actually like.”

    I *definately* don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that. Neither do I think it’s reasonable to assume that these cases tell us what the process of ‘dying’ is like either. I don’t even think it’s arguable, never mind assumptive.

    • tim October 12, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

      Max, Hi again “getting hung-up on cardiac arrest patients NDE’s as somehow different….”

      I’m not hung up on anything. Cardiac arrest is the best model to study the NDE, because cardiac arrest equals death. Fact. That’s why it was/is specifically chosen by cardiologists such as Van Lommel and Sam Parnia.

      “If a patient is able to report an NDE, the patients
      brain didn’t die”

      Not true I’m afraid. Pam Reynolds brain was completely drained of blood, flatlined and made dead by every known medical criteria. She was in this state for some twenty five minutes absolutely as dead as a doornail and yet she had a near death experience and remembered it very clearly. As did David Verdegaal who was declared brain dead after a massive stroke.

      ” I *definately* don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that. Neither do I think it’s reasonable to assume that these cases tell us what the process of ‘dying’ is like either. I don’t even think it’s arguable, never mind assumptive.”

      I don’t think you will find many people that agree with, Max, but you are entitled to your opinion the same as anyone else.

      • Max_b October 13, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

        “Cardiac arrest is the best model to study the NDE, because cardiac arrest equals death. Fact.”

        Obviously I dispute your reasoning, because of the rather inconvenient fact that these patients are ‘always’ successfully resuscitated. If their brain had actually died, they would have suffered catastrophic brain damage, and been unable to report an NDE.

        It seems obvious to me, that this demonstrates that the brain can survive longer than the current clinical definition of death.

        I doubt that it is something that we are likely to agree on…

  5. tim October 14, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    Hi, Max,
    Thanks for the reply. You have made some really interesting points which I have carefully considered.

    I understand the basis of your argument which has been used before by many sceptics. If they didn’t actually die then they can’t be dead. Therefore they didn’t really die and so they cannot be actually recounting what death is really like.

    The problem is that it not actually bsaed on the facts. As I said cardiac arrest is the same as death.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=4179894&page=1

    Ward Krenz of Sioux Falls fell crashed into a frozen lake (underwater for an hour or so) and was as dead as a cadever (Doctors words not mine). If they hadn’t done anything to try to bring him back, he
    would have stayed dead. (he reported a NDE)

    The fact that he was brought back doesn’t mean he didn’t die. He was in the state of clinical death which is dead. If he wasn’t dead then
    they wouldn’t have needed to resuscitate him. It’s semantics really.

    “I doubt that it is something that we are likely to agree on…”

    I agree, Max. That’s okay though isn’t it. Regards.

  6. Max_B October 15, 2011 at 10:09 pm #

    I’m accepting that ‘clinical death’ prognosticates death and suggests one has entered a dying process that may ultimately lead to irreversible death. However, the cessation of cardio-respiratory functions are indicative of death only when they persist long enough for the entire brain to irreversibly cease to function.

    If the body can be resuscitated, it’s logical to question if it was ever really dead considering the conventional idea of death as a finality from which one cannot be returned or resurrected from under any circumstances.

    I doubt any of this is semantics, and it’s certainly not when raised in regard to other topical issues, such as organ donation. I’ll leave you with a nice quote from Peter Fenwick’s book, ‘The Truth in the Light’:

    “…Many of the accounts he recorded were from people who had been resuscitated after a cardiac arrest; some had even been said to have been ‘clinically dead’ for a short while. Medically speaking, these people had not died – by definition they could not have died because they were now alive…”

  7. tim October 16, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    “However, the cessation of cardio-respiratory functions are indicative of death only when they persist long enough for the entire brain to irreversibly cease to function.”

    People commonly perceive death as being a moment — you’re either dead
    or you’re alive. And that’s a social definition we have. But the clinical definition we use is when the heart stops beating, the lungs
    stop working, and as a consequence the brain itself stops working. When doctors shine a light into someone’s pupil, it’s to demonstrate
    that there is no reflex present. The eye reflex is mediated by the brain stem, and that’s the area that keeps us alive; if that doesn’t
    work, then that means that the brain itself isn’t working. At that
    point, I’ll call a nurse into the room so I can certify that this patient is dead. Fifty years ago, people couldn’t survive after that.

    The quote is from Sam Parnia and he makes no mention of irreversible death. However, I understand what you are saying. The problem is, if you insist that irreversible death is the only valid yardstick by which death experiences can be studied, then of course by definition it is impossible. You can’t interview someone who is dead. Therfore no studies could ever take place. Fortunately, even the arch sceptics don’t insist on that. Thanks for the debate.

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 16, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

      Hi to both Tim and Max, I’ve enjoyed following your comments and the debate and it’s raised very good points from both sides. I’ve not had time to respond over the past few weeks and don’t have time for a lengthy comment right now. I think the important thing is that you are both listening to what each other is saying and looking at alternative ways to explain these points which is paramount to further our understanding of consciousness.

      I hope these kinds of dialogue are ongoing because they do raise excellent points. Thank you both for your contributions to the blog.

  8. tim October 16, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

    @Jake,

    “My question is in how many cases did NDErs see events that DIDN’T actually happen? I very much doubt these would be reported, but they would be good evidence for them being hallucinatory. I don’t know how often that happens, however.”

    Hi, Jake,
    The vast majority of NDE’s that are reported and contain OBE’s are accurate. Janice Minor Holden did a study on this (I don’t have it in front of me but will try and dig it out) and found something like 95 % very accurate.

  9. Max_B October 17, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    “The problem is, if you insist that irreversible death is the only valid yardstick by which death experiences can be studied, then of course by definition it is impossible.”

    I’m merely pointing out that the brains of people who report an NDE never actually died. NDE type experiences happen to people all the time. From my point of view, the value in these studies is due to the extreme, controlled and monitored conditions at the time their NDE took place, which indicates to me that current scientific understanding of the brain is incomplete.

    Currently my feeling is that the prevailing Neuron Synapse theories of how the brain works, are probably underpinned by far more complex quantum microcircuitry, which is both coherant and naturally superconducting, and utilises quantum field theory. That our brains receive and broadcast using quantum fields, and that our normal conscious perception of reality is probably solely due to our brain, which when ‘hooked’ into these quantum fields, neccesarily limits our perception of time, creating as a result, our perception of space (matter/energy). Vital if we are to experience and interact with this reality.

    Hizenbergs principle of uncertainty states that the more we know about the speed and direction of a sub-atomic particle (quantum level), the less we can know about its position. Hizenbergs states that if we knew the exact speed and direction of such a particle, then it’s position would become highly uncertain, indeed it could be anywhere within infinity. This works the other way round as well, if we know a particles position, then it’s future speed and direction become uncertain. The more you know about one, the more uncertain the other becomes. If you exchange ‘time’ for ‘speed and direction’, and ‘space’ for ‘position’, that principle to me seems to underpin our reality

    When our brain enters an altered state of conciousness, or indeed unconciousness, it probably becomes in some way, more receptive to the underlying quantum microcircuitry. Allowing us conscious awareness of events outside of our normal accepted perceptions of space and time.

    At present, I feel that the real issue we are struggling with is our outdated beliefs about time, and that our individual consciousness is simply because of our limited perception of time, and that ‘time’ is all about information, thoughts, feelings, emotions, dreams, memory. Whereas ‘space’ is all about matter, energy, gravity etc.

    For me, when your brain actually dies, your brain is unhooked from these quantum fields. However, the weird and possibly true nature of time, might mean that all that you were, information, thoughts, feelings, emotions, dreams, memory continue to exist outside of our linear experience of time. Timeless if you will.

  10. Tony October 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    Penny, with regards to COOL do we even know if the prospective study includes putting up targets high up above? Its such a controlled environment but I haven’t read anything about there even being any targets to test. Or maybe I am a little behind on the approach. If COOL turns out to be another data gathering study such as the Dutch study (prospective though it may be), then that’s cool (no pun intended) but I would like to see objective proof of OBE’s. Obviously that would be a game changer.

    • Dr Penny Sartori October 17, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

      Yes, as far as I am aware targets will be put up in the prospective part of the COOL study. It’s just a little unfortunate that the prospective part of the study is on hold at the moment. The results will be very exciting to read.

  11. Jake October 17, 2011 at 7:58 pm #

    Thanks for the replies everyone. Very interesting discussion going on here.

    I have to say, the theory about the brain being a filter make sense to me. I don’t necessarily believe it is the answer (at least not at the moment- need to see more evidence), but I like seeing logical theories being attached to paranormal events.

    That stat about 95% of NDE being accurate is extremely impressive. I would have to look into it more, but it gives me a little more hope for the COOL and AWARE studies producing positive results.

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  1. Update on Cool Study - Parapsychology and alternative medicine forums of mind-energy.net - January 25, 2012

    […] Update on Cool Study Not sure if there's been a post about this yet but apparently somebody saw something during the cool study. Update of The COOL Study led by Dr Mario Beauregard Dr Penny Sartori […]

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