Doubting death: how our brains shield us from mortal truth

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Post by phildidge on Sat Oct 19, 2019 7:17 pm

That’s because, researchers say, our brains do their best to keep us from dwelling on our inevitable demise. A study found that the brain shields us from existential fear by categorising death as an unfortunate event that only befalls other people.

“The brain does not accept that death is related to us,” said Yair Dor-Ziderman, at Bar Ilan University in Israel. “We have this primal mechanism that means when the brain gets information that links self to death, something tells us it’s not reliable, so we shouldn’t believe it.”

Being shielded from thoughts of our future death could be crucial for us to live in the present. The protection may switch on in early life as our minds develop and we realise death comes to us all.

“The moment you have this ability to look into your own future, you realise that at some point you’re going to die and there’s nothing you can do about it,” said Dor-Ziderman. “That goes against the grain of our whole biology, which is helping us to stay alive.”

To investigate how the brain handles thoughts of death, Dor-Ziderman and colleagues developed a test that involved producing signals of surprise in the brain.

They asked volunteers to watch faces flash up on a screen while their brain activity was monitored. The person’s own face or that of a stranger flashed up on screen several times, followed by a different face. On seeing the final face, the brain flickered with surprise because the image clashed with what it had predicted


https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/oct/19/doubting-death-how-our-brains-shield-us-from-mortal-truth


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Post by nicko on Sat Oct 19, 2019 8:38 pm

A Soldier advancing under fire thinks "I wont get shot It'll be one of my Mates" !
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Post by Ben Reilly on Sat Oct 19, 2019 8:47 pm

nicko wrote:A Soldier advancing under fire thinks "I wont get shot It'll be one of my Mates" !

I think that also has something to do with the fact that deep down, we consider ourselves the main character in our story.

So we're not going to die by randomly getting hit by a bus one day in our 50s. Our deaths have to be better than that, otherwise our life was a shit story Laughing

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Post by eddie on Sat Oct 19, 2019 8:50 pm

It’s weird because in our teens and twenties we see ourselves as immortal but as we hit our forties and fifties, and we start to see parents and other older family members die, we start to realise our mortality.

So I’m not sure this article is perfectly correct.

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Post by phildidge on Sat Oct 19, 2019 9:10 pm

Ben Reilly wrote:
nicko wrote:A Soldier advancing under fire thinks "I wont get shot It'll be one of my Mates" !

I think that also has something to do with the fact that deep down, we consider ourselves the main character in our story.

So we're not going to die by randomly getting hit by a bus one day in our 50s. Our deaths have to be better than that, otherwise our life was a shit story Laughing

There is a medical symptom called impending doom. It happens to many heart attack victims. Where they feel a sense of something drastically wrong. Its classed rightly as a symptom in potential heart attack patients. I wonder based on this study where the inhibitors created by the brain some how fail in these situations or simple switch off. Ther3e is also many accounts of soldiers having such feelings prior to battle, beliving they will be dead by tomorrow and openly speaking of this to only then be killed. Not sure if this is also connected, but clearly there is much merit to this study.

As the reality is many people do go through life not fear such a fucture impending doom view

I agree with Eddie that as we get older more and more people start to realise their own mortality, but disagree with her. That the brain is in fact working to take our minds constantly off this reality. I have previously often pondered death and came to the conclusion it is inevitable and why be in fear of this. Its because I wanted to think about this and feel free no longer being in fear as I once did as a teen as a Catholic. Which shows even then I had little faith in religion. But that was me wanting to think about this, when clearly our brains constantly distract us from thinking on this as we never tend to ponder on this. Only generally people with mental health issues may well do and also become suicidal. Clearly then maybe again the brain is failing to function to block such views.

I am only second guessing here, but it would make a biological and evoluntionary snese for our brains to block out such thoughts of death, with a need of survival. Its all very interesting and much work clearly is needed to further understand this

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Post by phildidge on Sat Oct 19, 2019 9:18 pm

nicko wrote:A Soldier advancing under fire thinks "I wont get shot It'll be one of my Mates" !

I agree with Ben's on this point in that many will think its not going to happen to ourselves. Is this again the brain in action making us believe it will not happen to us? Again for some clearly the brain does not always help the individual. In that some have such thoughts of imepnding doom. You would be better placed mate to help others understand this when facing the potential of death when in combat and how your brothers in arms felt Nicko.

Like i says its very interesting, but Ben has picked up a good point which does add weight to this study. In that many soldiers prior to combat do not believe they will be the one that will be killed. Is this again further evidence of this study in how our brains look to make us believe in survival?

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Post by nicko on Sun Oct 20, 2019 4:30 am

Many Soldiers [including me] were not frightened of death, it was the manner of it ,dying in agony, was what we feared the most.At my age,, , I am not frightened of dying,in fact I would welcome it as long as it was quick!
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Post by Vintage on Sun Oct 20, 2019 10:56 am

I think we are or at least were too busy to dwell on our deaths, too busy doing what we had to, to survive and death was just part of it all.
Everyone is aware of their mortality but as Eddie says its so far in the future or so you think barring accidents or violence, you don't think much about it, its something way in the future, as you age the inevitable becomes more sharply into focus. If you get an illness that is potentially life threatening that of course focuses your attention.

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Post by nicko on Sun Oct 20, 2019 11:07 am

After Prostate Cancer, a quadruple by-pass and several other emergences I'm still here, [much to Andy's disgust] DNR is on my medical records .
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Post by Vintage on Sun Oct 20, 2019 11:31 am

In the midst of life we are in death. In previous times death was ever present, get a minor cut then an infection, get an illness, accidents etc death was inevitable, people just lived with it, they probably thought about it a lot. Now with more medical advancements, although inevitable, death is less of a shadow in everyone's lives, even those that have serious illnesses. Nicko has survived a lot and only a few years ago would not have survived at all, as with many people me included.
I agree with Nicko its not the dying most people fear its the manner of the death that's important which is why I favour a person's right to die at a time of their choosing in certain circumstances.

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Post by Original Quill on Sun Oct 20, 2019 5:02 pm

For millions of millennia I did not exist, and I suffered no adverse consequences. I guess it's back to the shelf until they need me again.

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