This Is The Exact Number Of Minutes Your Brain Can Function After You Die

The human brain is a remarkable organ. A strange-looking, wrinkled object, it is the key to everything humanity ever has and ever will achieve, and the reason we are the most brilliant creatures on planet Earth. Granted, there are other incredibly intelligent species all around us, but dolphins haven't split the atom or developed microprocessors.

Of course, the human brain does have its limitations. The Dent Neurological Institute reports that we can't truly multitask, but rather quickly swap between multiple tasks. At the same time, though, it's an astonishing web of 100 billion neurons working ceaselessly to power humanity's best ideas, from sliced bread to the internet, while also powering literally every little movement we make.

As BBC Future reports, the specific functions of particular parts of the brain are still a bit of a mystery to us in some areas. It's possible to live without certain parts of the organ (though behavioral traits can be affected), but in the main, it's the brain that keeps everything else in our bodies ticking. In fact, it's so determined to perform this role that it continues to function for several minutes after death. 

The potential of the human brain

LiveScience stated in 2014 that decapitation in rats can result in a great eruption of activity in the brain, around a minute after the severing. This is a response to the abrupt loss of oxygen to the vital organ. Bas-Jan Zandt et al. published a study of this so-called "Wave of Death" in 2011, concluding that it didn't necessarily mean the death of the brain itself, as had been suggested previously. The trouble, of course, is that decapitation generally does mean death, and the brain would follow.

As stubborn as the brain is, though, it certainly seems capable of persisting after the body's death. Science Alert says that a remarkable case occurred in a Canadian hospital in 2017. A patient's life support system was deactivated, only for the brain to continue to emit delta waves — similar to those of a soundly sleeping brain, the report explained — for over 10 minutes after the patient's death had been confirmed.

The Independent adds that four patients were studied in total, and only one of them exhibited these fascinating signs, though each of their brains registered slightly different activity on and immediately after death. As the resultant scientific study, "Electroencephalographic Recordings During Withdrawal of Life-Sustaining Therapy Until 30 Minutes After Declaration of Death," notes, this information could have profound implications, per the National Library of Medicine.