A new study has shown that the brain remains active for quite some time after death – which means you’ll most likely know it when you die.

The study was conducted by a team from the New York University Langone School of Medicine and according to Mail Online it’s the largest research project of its kind.

Independent.co.uk writes that scientists at the university studied cardiac arrest victims who’d been resuscitated.

The patients were asked to give an account of their “death” experience. Many said they’d heard the conversations of the medics around them and some even gave detailed descriptions of the movements of the medical personnel in the room. The patients’ versions of events corresponded to that of the medical and nursing staff on duty.

When is someone dead?

According to one of the researchers of the study, Dr Sam Parnia, in medical terms death is defined as the moment the heart stops beating and blood flow to the brain ceases.

“Technically, that’s how you get the time of death – it’s all based on the moment when the heart stops,” Dr Parnia explains.

“Once that happens, blood no longer circulates to the brain, which means brain function halts almost instantaneously. You lose all your brain stem reflexes – your gag reflex, your pupil reflex, all that’s gone.”

But this doesn’t mean the brain automatically loses all functionality. Dr Parnia says that it can take several hours for all the brain cells to die.

The brain’s cerebral cortex – which is responsible for thinking and processing information from the five senses – dies the second blood flow to the brain stops.

This then causes a chain reaction of cellular processes that slowly starts killing off brain cells and, as Dr Parnia explains, it could take hours before all the cells die – hours in which the body is lifeless but the brain is still “alive”.

Sources: Dailymail.co.uk, Nzherald.co.nz, Independent.co.uk