Thirty-nine per cent of patients who survived cardiac arrest and were able to undergo interviews described a perception of awareness, but did not have any explicit memory of events.'This suggests more people may have mental activity initially but then lose their memories after recovery, either due to the effects of brain injury or sedative drugs on memory recall,' said Dr Parnia. Among the study participants who recalled awareness, and completed further interviews, 46 per cent experienced a wide range of mental recollections, that were not compatible with the commonly used term, near death experiences.They included feelings of fear and persecution.Only nine per cent had experiences commonly linked to a near death experiences, while two per cent showed full awareness or out of body experiences.They explicitly recalled 'seeing' and 'hearing' events after their hearts had stopped. In many of the cases, several similar trends emerged. One in five described a feeling of peacefulness in the moment after death. A third said time had either moved more quickly or slowed down. An out-of-body experience was felt by 13 per cent of those asked.The bright light or golden flash image often used in Hollywood films was also described by some patients. Others experienced a more unpleasant sensation of fears of drowning or being dragged through deep water. Dr Parnia said that the number of people having experiences when close to death would be higher were it not for drugs and sedatives given to patients. The study was launched in 2008 following a successful 18-month pilot phase at selected hospitals in the UK.It allowed the research to be expanded to include other centres within the UK, mainland Europe and North America.Dr Parnia added: 'Contrary to perception, death is not a specific moment but a potentially reversible process that occurs after any severe illness or accident causes the heart, lungs and brain to cease functioning.'If attempts are made to reverse this process, it is referred to as 'cardiac arrest'; however, if these attempts do not succeed it is called 'death. 'In this study we wanted to go beyond the emotionally charged yet poorly defined term of near death experiences to explore objectively what happens when we die. 'While it was not possible to absolutely prove the reality or meaning of patients’ experiences and claims of awareness, (due to the very low incidence - two per cent - of explicit recall of visual awareness or so called out of body experiences), it was impossible to disclaim them either and more work is needed in this area.'Clearly, the recalled experience surrounding death now merits further genuine investigation without prejudice.'