In a large scale study of more than 2,000 people, British boffins confirmed that thoughts DO carry on after the heart stops.
The shock research has also uncovered the most convincing evidence of an out of body experience for a patient declared dead.
It had been believed the brain stopped all activity 30 seconds after the heart had stopped pumping blood around the body, and that with that, awareness ceases too.
However, the study from the University of Southampton shows people still experience awareness for up to three minutes after they had been pronounced dead.
Lead researcher Dr Sam Parnia said: "Contrary to perception, death is not a specific moment but a potentially reversible process that occurs after any severe illness or accident causes the heart, lungs and brain to cease functioning.
“If attempts are made to reverse this process, it is referred to as ‘cardiac arrest’; however, if these attempts do not succeed it is called ‘death’.”
Of the 2,060 patients from Austria, the US and the UK interviewed for the study who had survived cardiac arrest, almost 40 per cent said that they recall some form of awareness after being pronounced clinically dead.
Dr Parnia continued: "This suggests more people may have mental activity initially but then lose their memories after recovery, either due to the effects of brain injury or sedative drugs on memory recall.”