In 1998, J. Robert Adams, a medical practitioner and researcher, published a book that expanded on a hypothesis he named "The Saved Memory Hypothesis." A hypothesis, to be sure, is not considered a fact, merely a supposition that needs to be thoroughly scrutinized to ever be considered a theory.  3

A family friend who knew Dr Adams lent me her copy after a dinner conversation in which I compared a dying brain to a computer being turned off. When you turn off a computer, its electrical activity does not cease immediately, instead it slows down over a brief period of time. I further expressed the notion that the dying person experiences a sense of time much longer than that brief moment, possibly approaching eternity. Such disparity is known as time dilation.  4

On the back of the book's cover is an invitation to join Dr. Adams "on a journey into cryogenic freezing, cell cloning, warp speeds, bubble universes, big bangs, and black holes—even into minuscule dimensions of the quantum domain—as he examines the meaning of life, death, and the afterlife."  5

Big stuff. Raises a skepic's hackles. But further down "Two-time Nobel prize winner Linus Pauling praised the book's clear, straightforward writing, and eminent researcher Phil Gold called it 'An excellent read. Challenging, thought-provoking'."  6

The book does not attempt to convince its readers that there is indeed life after death. Rather, it is a scientifically guided attempt at examining the possibility that human memory survives elsewhere after the brain dies. Possibility, not probability. It is an invitation for an exploration as well as a guide that makes use of the author's scientific insights.  7

My own sense (at this time) is that the probability is very low indeed for a simple reason: Dr. Adams' hypothesis rests on four other hypotheses. That is a lot of suppositions. Neverthelss, a scientific exploration beats baseless opinions. Neither a believer nor an unbeliever be.  8

* * *

Had happy hour with my spouse. Half an hour, really. Glass of wine; a nibble; a little conversation. After 65 years of marriage many things have already been said many times. But I'm rambling. Old fogeys ramble a lot. We often lose our thread, maybe because some word fails to come to mind when needed, having missed neural connections because of the brain's congested traffic.  9

I have lost consciousness quite a few times—aside from falling asleep. Low blood pressure has been one cause, pain another. The last time it happened was a few years ago when I was out for some three quarters of an hour. Bear with me; this is relevant. To me anyway.  10

I came to when I heard some voices, of first-responders who subsequently took me to a hospital. During the ride, they kept on asking my name and date of birth or where I was born. I didn't understand why the same questions over and over again, but it turned out that I kept on conking out. Even in the hospital. The medical staff fixed me up somehow by some lengthy procedure. The next day a doctor asked me how long I wished them to keep trying to revive me if this happened again. He explained that if it takes longer than half an hour (as I now recall) I might come to with permanent brain damage and so, to avoid becoming a burden to the family, I settled for only that much time.  11

Why did I bring this up? Well, I learned from Dr. Adams's book that Self—by which he means mind—might be conceived as being made of three parts:  12

      • Sensory input. How possibly can a brain receive information from the outside without our senses (sound, sight, small, taste, and touch)?  12a

      • Structural record in the brain of this input. The brain makes a record of the information within itself that may last from the briefest of moments to longer periods, up to a lifetime. This is a structural record made up of neural activity in the brain's sensory and motor regions of the brain's cortex, its outermost layer.  12b

      • Conscious retrieval and processing of this input. The Self cannot exist without information retrieved from memory and senses by a mental activity we call consciousness. As the 17th century French philosopher René Descartes declared: "I think, therefore I am."  12c

Phew. That was quite a lecture! And in preparing it I happened to notice that Descartes received part of his education at the University of Leiden, just a hop, skip, and jump from where I lived as a kid. Ah, I am rambling again. Need to pee. Back in a sec.  13

* * *

From what little I know, the way I perceive things is that any one or two or all three parts of the Self (mind, that is) may not be working as well it might. Singling out consciousness, it often does not even function at all; in deep sleep, mostly. But this does not mean that the sleeping person cannot receive sensory input. We can wake up a person by turning on a light or by making a sound or by touching or shaking.  14

Dreaming is a process of retrieving and processing memory, but mostly without sensory input in real time. If we consider the mind's narratives during wakefulness as a norm, dreams are decidedly defective, a hodgepodge of shards of retrieved memory.  15

An alert person may observe that a sleeper priodically moves his eyes under the closed lids. This is referred to as rapid eye movement (REM). Researchers learned that there is a drastic change in neural activity during REM sleep.* One prominent feature is dreaming. (To be sure, I understand that dreaming also occurs during non-REM sleep.) It is quite apparent that in dreams a lot happens (or can happen) in little time and I am wondering if the speed of the eyes' movements during a dream might provide a measure of such time dilation.  16

Now, why would a dreamed narrative unfold so rapidly? The thought going through my mind is that the traffic of signals through the neural network is lighter during the dream than during waking hours for the simple reason that the brain does not need to process sensual input, that there is less motor input, and less than full consciousness. Less traffic permits higher speeds. We know that the speed of a signalling in the neural network is quite variable, affected as it is by the quality of myelin sheaths, by the transmission through synapses, what have you. I assume also by the obstacles posed by one signal to another. Just thoughts going through my mind.  17

And now, turning from dreaming to dying: the brain's electrical activity goes down fast—even while the heart is still beating. The rapidly diminishing signal traffic permits an accelerating narrative, one with diminishing content because of a lessening retrieval from memory. The narrative becomes simpler, eventually to finish with some residual light light, the end of Self. Requiescat in pace.  18

There are stories of people who have experienced dying, but have come back to life in the nick of time and regale us with tales about a sense of peace, about seeing flowers, other people, and a bright white light. Those flowers, might they be simply some colors? Those people, might they be residual images still retrieved from memory? Enhanced perhaps by wishful telling—wellspring of myths. I don't know, of course, but it appears to me that experience corresponds well with how I sketched the end of Self.  19

* * *

I might ramble on about such things as sleepwalking, coma, people reporting conversations heard during a coma from which they returned to consciousness, but that is all too much. I have speculated enough. Or hypothesized enough. Take your pick.  20

Reference  *  fn1

The space below serves to put any hyperlinked targets at the top of the window

Valid XHTML 1.0!     tux     mveMVE


Above space serves to put hyperlinked targets at the top of the window