Why You Probably Won’t Experience Your Own Traumatic Death
Ever wonder what it would be like to get shot in the head, or have your face smash into a car’s windshield? Well, you can stop wondering, because you’ll never know — even if it does happen to you.
There are at least two major reasons why, if you die in a sudden and violent fashion, you’ll literally never know what hit you. First, our brains process information too slowly. Second, there’s the issue of the integrity of the cognitive functions that are responsible for conscious experience. Let’s take those one by one.
Living in the past
You might think you’re observing the present moment, but science tells us otherwise. To get a better sense of why this happens, we contacted neuroscientist David Eagleman, author of The Secret Lives of the Brain.
Eagleman says that it takes time for signals to move through the brain’s grey matter that’s situated around the cortex. These signals travel at a rate of one meter per second — a speed that Eagleman says is “insanely slow,” when compared to electricity. “It takes a while for the brain to know what’s happening,” he says, “so we’re always living in the past.” In fact, Eagleman points out that our autonomous motor systems actually react faster to external stimuli than conscious awareness.