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What happens in the Body when the Brain dies

Here are the five phases the brain goes through before it dies.


The death of a loved one is a terrible and overwhelming ordeal for loved ones. Doctors who were unable to help their patients are no less affected by death. Yet the dying process is also a fascinating research topic for some scientists.


Indeed, when it is not the heart that stops beating, but the brain that is damaged and no longer works, the human body goes through a particular death process. Neurologists divide this process into five partially intertwined phases.

The following list describes the processes that occur in the human body when brain cells die.

  • In the first phase, the oxygen supply to the brain is interrupted and the brain can no longer function properly. Indeed, the neurons responsible for communication between brain areas are then deactivated. After only 10 seconds without oxygen, the body engages this protective mechanism, which leads to fainting. This serves to prevent important parts of the body from being damaged until it receives enough oxygen again. However, if this state persists for a prolonged period, the consequences can be dramatic, such as coma and/or death.


  • Locked in syndrome is a condition in which the person is no longer unconscious, but parts of the brain are already damaged. The body’s reactions are severely limited due to the injury. The person certainly perceives his environment, but is no longer able to react to it. The reason for this is damage to the part of the brain responsible for muscle movement. Often patients can only move their eyelids or toes.


  • As with locked-in syndrome, people who fall into an awake coma following brain injury can breathe and swallow independently because the brainstem is still functioning. Nevertheless, it is not known exactly what those affected notice about their environment, because their brain activity is greatly reduced. While the body responds to muscle stimuli, affected individuals cannot move or speak.


  • If the brain damage is so serious that the people concerned have only weak or even non-existent reflexes, we are in the presence of a comatose state. In contrast to a vigil coma, the patient can now only be kept alive by ventilation devices, since only a few impulses are still sent from the brain to the body. In extreme cases, this state can last for several years without change.


  • This last phase is very controversial among doctors, because its definition is not clear. For many doctors, a person’s brain death occurs when the brain no longer shows any activity and there is large-scale cell death. While the patient’s heart is still beating, the brain cells die because they no longer have any function. Often, doctors find that their patients’ brain activity still increases rapidly before shutting down completely.


In many cases, conventional medicine now makes it possible to treat all phases, except the last, and to move towards a cure. Doctors and researchers are doing their best to learn more and more about the neurological processes of the human brain, in order to find new and better methods of healing.

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