Is There Life after Death? Fifty Years of Research at UVA

February 22, 2017
Jim B. Tucker
Bruce Greyson
Edward F. Kelly
J. Kim Penberthy

Does some aspect of our personality survive bodily death? Long a philosophical and theological question, in the 20th century this became the subject of scientific research. Fifty years ago, in 1967, Ian Stevenson, then chair of UVA’s Department of Psychiatry, created a research unit—now named the Division of Perceptual Studies—to study what, if anything, of the human personality survives after death. Dr. Stevenson’s own research investigated hundreds of accounts of young children who claimed to recall past lives.

In this Medical Center Hour, faculty from the Division of Perceptual Studies highlight the unit’s work since its founding, including studies of purported past lives, near-death experiences, and mind-brain interactions in phenomena such as deep meditation, veridical out-of-body experiences, deathbed visions, apparent communication from deceased persons, altered states of consciousness, and terminal lucidity in persons with irreversible brain damage. As the division enters its second half-century, what are its research priorities and partnerships?

History of the Health Sciences Lecture
Co-presented with Historical Collections, Claude Moore Health Sciences Library and the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, UVA


28 thoughts on “Is There Life after Death? Fifty Years of Research at UVA

  1. Believe me, there is no life after death. Nothing remains when a person dies, it is THE END. What you have read in the religious books like bible etc . are all myth. There is no such a place like heaven and hell.

  2. I don't have time to even watch this video, I just know that there is life after death, positively. I have passed on (and revived) many times due to my health problems and have been to the spirit world each time. I already know if there is life after death. There is, period. There is a God also.

  3. Extremely interesting and important document. Well done, @UVA. And I would like to know who these 613 morons are (as of today) who disliked this great documentary. Surely dull heads. Pumpkin brains. Fools.

  4. And he (i.e. man) presents for Us an example (i.e. attempting to establish the finality of death) and forgets his [own] creation. He says, “Who will give life to bones while they are disintegrated?” Say, “He will give them life who produced them the first time; and He is, of all creation, Knowing.” [It is] He who made for you from the green tree, fire, and then from it you ignite. Is not He who created the heavens and the earth Able to create the likes of them? Yes, [it is so]; and He is the Knowing Creator. (Quran, 36:78-

  5. When we brought our child home after being born , only 4 days later when he was sleeping on a nightly occurrence he would be smiling and actually laughing at times during his sleep . A child at this age has no concept of anything comical regardless if adults try to make them laugh , hearing and eyesight has still not developed, letter know the concept of laughter . I have 5 boys and this happened with 3 of them .

  6. There is life after deaths with ALL animals, not just humans. Again, humans are not that special in this entire universe. We are as intelligent as a bug to other far more advanced life forms in the universe, as a bug is to humans.

  7. I am one of the many who remember our past generations. Our body dies but the spirit lives on for 7 generations.

    We do meet heavenly souls but earthly people do not and will not believe it.

    So we shut our mouth and sit quite. 🙂

  8. There is an unbreakable Universal and Dimensional Law that encompasses Space, Time, The Microcosm and the Macrocosm, it is at once a Simple Law and a Profound one. The Law is this. There is No such thing as "Nothing" Science is Slowly moving towards this Truth.

  9. I can record spirits giving intelligent answers virtually anywhere and at any time. If I do a video in my house that’s 1 minute long I will generally have at least three spirit voices in it saying hello, my name, etc. I’m not making this up and almost anyone I show the video to can also hear them.

  10. This is a very important topic that influences just about everything in our lives. Having done spiritual energy healing work and regression hypnotherapy for many years as well as working with a variety of intuitives and mediums, the concept that our consciousness is eternal and transcends the physical realm is something that became irrefutable for me. When I first became interested in these subjects many years ago I would find all the books I could on reincarnation, NDEs, OOBEs, and other topics relating to consciousness and metaphysics. Coming from an academic background it helped to find accomplished researchers writing about these subjects and bringing some scholarly perspectives to the topics. It is good to have academic researchers collecting evidence in the field of parapsychology to help those who are caught in a materialist science worldview to begin taking the subject of consciousness and spirituality more seriously.

  11. UVA Medical Center Hour
    even though your study involved children for the last 50 years, I'm surprised to hear you say others in the field say 1 and 10% NDE's are not pleasant in nature because it's hard to get people to talk about these things. You state don't know what goes into making a NDE pleasant or unpleasant, although you do know for some it's the difficulty of letting go and people who are very rigid have a terrifying experience. So they don't embrace the experience, they fight it. Wouldn't you? I'm curious what each of you in the video personally believe goes into making a NDE pleasant or unpleasant. That would be a great discussion on the side. But the few conclusions you hold about negative negative NDEs are vague at best and not in tune with the reality and dynamics of negative NDE's. I say this in part because Dr. Kim Penberthy discusses Mindfulness and the hopeful ability to reach altered states of gaining a meaningful life as if one had a positive NDE without having to ever had died. She asserts that research through DOPS challenges mainstream views about the relationship between the physical world, our consciousness and 'whether or not they are indeed distinct and separate'. She goes on to say it's important to understand the ramifications not only to ourselves individually but also about the future of our death and people as a race. But she missed the important point. If you want to learn more about NDE's and its effects on the future of ourselves and planet, then you must also include a study of negative NDE's. If you knew the actual percentage of people who had, have and will have negative NDE's, it would indeed unpleasantly catch you off guard. It needs to be studied in order to bring further knowledge to Dr. Penberthy's unknown ramifications about the future of our death and people as a race, and there are several ways to accomplish it.
    As for living life as though one had a positive NDE without ever having had one, able to transcend one's life into those ways of altered states of well being, not just for a while but for the rest of one's life, it happens, more than you know.

  12. What a waste of tuition money. These “professors “ should be ashamed to participate in something like this. Money for repeating stories. This is not academic work, it is ghost stories being told by “professors “ collecting a pay check for producing nothing. These people are not experts, they are close cousins to TV evangelists.

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