The Situationist

The High of Dying

Posted by Adam Benforado on September 10, 2011

On my way back from North Carolina yesterday afternoon, I read several articles on the central role of mortality concerns in human social behavior.

What did I learn?

Thinking about death and personal vulnerability is a stupid thing to do on a turbulent flight right before the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Luckily, this morning, Jaime Napier (via Facebook) provided the perfect tonic to my existential malaise:

A new article by Alexander Wutzler, Paraskevi Mavrogiorgou, Christine Winter, and Georg Juckel entitled, quite promisingly, Elevation of Brain Serotonin During Dying.

As the abstract of the article explains,

Death and dying are central events in the life of an organism, but neurobiological changes during this process are still rarely understood. Extracellular levels of serotonin, one of the phylogenetically oldest neurotransmitters, were measured continuously during dying. Serotonin levels increased threefold, while the EEG recorded simultaneously went down to a zero-line of no activity. This could be caused by the neuroprotective activity of brain serotonergic system, which subjectively makes dying easier due to the mood enhancing function of this neurotransmitter.

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