, Volume 260, Issue 3, pp 742-749

Ictal autoscopic phenomena and near death experiences: a study of five patients with ictal autoscopies

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Abstract

Autoscopic phenomena in general may—among other conditions—occur during epileptic seizures and near death experiences. We set the hypothesis that ictal autoscopic phenomena and near death experiences have a similar semiology as measured by the Near Death Experience Questionnaire. We also investigated whether patients with aura before temporal lobe seizures with or without autoscopic phenomena could be distinguished by this questionnaire. For these purposes, we examined five patients with ictal autoscopy and 12 patients with aura before temporal lobe seizures without ictal autoscopy as controls. We used a cut-off of 7 points or higher on the Near Death Experience Questionnaire for indicating the semiology of a near death experience and for distinguishing patients with ictal autoscopy from controls. This cut-off separated patients with ictal autoscopic phenomena from aura before temporal lobe seizures without autoscopy (p = 0.0002, two-sided, exact Fisher’s Test; specificity: 100 % [CI95 % 77.9 and 100 %], sensitivity: 100 % [CI95 % 54.9 and 100 %]). Furthermore, all autoscopic patients (range 7–10) and none of the controls (range 0–5) had scores of 7 points or higher. Thus, the individual experiences during simple partial autoscopic seizures and near death experiences are similar, at least in some prominent aspects. These findings might be of particular interest for the pathophysiology of near death experiences, as all patients with ictal autoscopic phenomena had an epileptic dysfunction at the temporo-parietal junction or its neighboring regions. Therefore, a malfunction of this brain region might also be involved in near death experiences of other origins especially during states which could cause a near death experience and a cerebral excitability.