Probably the scariest thing about death is the fact that we don't know what happens afterwards. It's pretty intense, isn't it? No wonder so many people believe in an afterlife - it seems much more optimistic than the idea of your consciousness just switching off.
OK, we've all been in the grip of a hellishly grim hangover and joked about looking forward to the sweet release of death, but usually that's easily sorted by a day on the sofa, staring at the telly and occasionally scranning a gobful of comfort food. No existential dread or pining for the light at the end of the tunnel required.
Well, now scientists believe they've found out what happens to your brain after you die, and in all honesty I'm not sure the news is any more cheery.
According to LiveScience, Dr. Sam Parnia of New York University Langone School of Medicine has discovered that a person's consiousness continues to function after they've died. OH GOOD.
Dr. Parnia and his team investigated a series of studies on cardiac arrest victims who have later 'come back to life'.
"They'll describe watching doctors and nurses working and they'll describe having awareness of full conversations, of visual things that were going on, that would otherwise not be known to them," said Dr. Parnia.
Their recollections were also verified by medical staff who reported their patients could remember the details.
It's been compared to the recent remake of psychological horror movie Flatliners, which starred Ellen Page. It tells the tale of a group of young doctors who take turns stopping their hearts to see what happens in the afterlife. No, doesn't sound like a great idea to me either.
Ellen Page in Flatliners. Credit: Columbia Pictures
The medical definition of death is when the heart ceases to beat, cutting off the blood supply to the brain and preventing it from keeping the body alive.
According to Dr. Parnia, the cerebral cortex (also known as the 'thinking' part of the brain) then instantly slows down and flatlines within two to 20 seconds, resulting in the death of the brain.
The doc added: "At the same time, we also study the human mind and consciousness in the context of death, to understand whether consciousness becomes annihilated or whether it continues after you've died for some period of time - and how that relates to what's happening inside the brain in real time."
dr sam parnia
Dr. Sam Parnia. Credit: NYU Langone Health
But if this all seems like a terrifying revelation, I've got news for you - this isn't the first time doctors have spotted brain activity after a person has died.
According to the Sun, doctors in Canada reported that one patient showed signs of persistent brain activity after their life support had been turned off.
Brain waves, mimicking those experienced in deep sleep, continued to occur for more than 10 minutes after the person was declared clinically dead.
Not sure whether this means we should always be prepared for a full-scale zombie invasion, but I suppose you can never be too careful.
Featured Image Credit: Columbia Pictures / PA