Commenting on the research, Dr Jason Braithwaite, of the University of Birmingham, said the phenomenon appeared to be the brain's "last hurrah".
"This is a very neat demonstration of an idea that's been around for a long time: that under certain unfamiliar and confusing circumstances - like near-death - the brain becomes overstimulated and hyperexcited," he said.
"Like 'fire raging through the brain', activity can surge through brain areas involved in conscious experience, furnishing all resultant perceptions with realer-than-real feelings and emotions."
But he added: "One limitation is that we do not know when, in time, the near-death experience really occurs. Perhaps it was before patients had anaesthesia, or at some safe point during an operation long before cardiac arrest.
"However, for those instances where experiences may occur around the time of cardiac arrest - or beyond it - these new findings provide further meat to the bones of the idea that the brain drives these fascinating and striking experiences"
Furthermore, the authors observed nearly identical patterns in the dying brains of rats undergoing asphyxiation.
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