ANDREW RESPONDS TO PATRICK:
Could the new musical or creative gifts that can come after an NDE be brought on by damage to the left side of the brain, forcing the right side to become more dominant?? Is the soul separate from the brain?
It is possible that as changes occur in one part of the brain, previously dormant abilities are "released". It may not be as simple as a left vs right thing. For example, some elements of music are more left sided because of the mathematical and systematic aspects of music.
The right hemisphere tends to be the more creative side, but often needs the left hemisphere to fully express this creativity. However, the overall thought that as various parts of the brain are affected by a given injury, other parts can take over or become enhanced in their functioning, can certainly happen.
As to whether the soul is separate from the brain, that depends on your perspective of the soul. If you consider the soul the part of us that makes human beings unique, then the soul could be material and based on brain functions that enable us to have language, love, compassion, and creativity.
On the other hand, from a religious/spiritual perspective, the soul is something that is immaterial and connects us with God or some universal consciousness. If that is the case, the soul likely interacts with the brain, but is still separate from the brain. Of course, where the soul actually is may be difficult to determine given such a perspective. My field of work, neurotheology, encourages us to explore all of the possibilities and also take into account the possibility that there is a mutual interaction between whatever parts of ourselves are material and non-material.
ANDREW RESPONDS TO STEVEN:
Do you believe any of the skeptic's arguments (brain closing down, chemicals being released, REM intrusion) invalidate the NDE? I have wondered whether one's belief that there is a GOD or that the soul lives on, is an influencing factor in reporting a NDE. We see what we expect to see?
If we consider an NDE to be associated with a physiological process such as the brain shutting down, one conclusion would be the skeptical one in which the NDE would be considered only the result of a biological process. However, it is also possible that shutting down the brain allows for the brain, or our soul or consciousness, to reach a new plane of interaction with the universe and experience things we cannot experience when the brain is functioning in its usual state.
Another example I like to use is related to the use of psychedelic compounds. One interpretation is that the drug creates the experience. Another interpretation is that the drug opens a window for the brain or consciousness to experience aspects of the world that we are not usually able to experience.
Of course, even if the brain is shutting down, it is possible that such a process simply releases the immaterial soul or consciousness to return to some more intimate contact with the universe. Thus, it is difficult to fully prove one way or another what the NDE actually represents, and we should not conclude that simply because we can identify associated brain processes that those brain processes create the experience. However, the brain may still shape the experience and hence might still alter how we see the world based on what we expect to see
He is the author of, Neurotheology: How Science Can Enlighten Us About Spirituality , How God Changes Your Brain, How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain: The New Science of Transformation, and Why God Won’t Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief. He has also produced a 24-lecture video program entitled, The Spiritual Brain, for The Teaching Company. He has presented his work at scientific and religious meetings throughout the world and has appeared on Dr. Oz, StarTalk, Good Morning America, Nightline, 20/20, CNN, and ABC World News Tonight, and his work has been featured in a number of media articles including in Newsweek, Time, National Geographic, Discover, O Magazine, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, London Observer, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Readers Digest. Additional information regarding books and research can be found at www.andrewnewberg.com.