The Trigger of Extreme Gravity: Dr. James Winnery's
The scientific method
requires a phenomenon to be able to be reproducible
under laboratory conditions for it to be declared
a "real" phenomenon. In the early
days, near-death experiences were thought by
some to be just "phantom" visions
and nothing more than imagination. But then
Dr. James E. Whinnery,
a chemistry professor with West Texas A&M,
became involved with research involving fighter
pilots being subjected to extreme gravitational
forces in a giant centrifuge to simulate the
extreme conditions that can occur during aerial
combat maneuvering. Strangely enough, it turns
out that under extreme g-forces, fighter pilots
lose consciousness and have a near-death experience.
Whinnery wrote a technical report for the
for Discovery Science
about the phenomenon and in doing so proved
the near-death experience to be a real phenomenon.
The following is a summary of his technical
report of how NDEs are triggered by severe gravitational
research has tried to unlock the secrets of death and
what happens to consciousness after death. Our scientific
understanding of the mind / brain chemistry involved
in the processes of death remains relatively limited.
In spite of the findings reported from these studies,
little emphasis has been placed on the loss of consciousness.
The results of the loss and recovery of consciousness
experiments in healthy humans may provide insight into
the normal processes in the brain that occurs in association
This report focuses on the
mind/brain events associated with acceleration gravitationally-induced
loss of consciousness, also known as
in completely healthy individuals. Acceleration of gravitational
stress is a unique aspect of flying fighter aircraft
during aerial combat maneuvering. Modern fighter aircraft
can attain high levels of gravitational forces that
puts most humans at risk for G-LOC.
The gravitational-stress reduces blood flow to the head
and causes pooling of blood in the abdomen and extremities
which result in G-LOC. A solution for the G-LOC problem
requires a thorough understanding of the alterations
of consciousness. Although preventing further losses
of aircrew and aircraft is the goal of fighter aviation
medicine, the results from experiments involving G-LOC
in completely healthy humans should be of interest to
a broad range of scientific disciplines.
The results to be discussed
represent data collected from over fifteen years of
acceleration research and more than 700 episodes of
G-LOC that occurred in fighter aircraft and during gravitational
exposure. The research subjects averaged in age of 32
years. All of them were healthy after having successfully
completed a military physical examination. The G-LOC
episodes from the centrifuge were all recorded on videotape
When gravitational stress is applied well above tolerance,
there is a short time period during which normal brain
function persists, despite loss of adequate blood flow.
At the end of this period, consciousness is lost, and
the gravitational stress is reduced back to normal conditions.
The length of the unconsciousness averaged 12 seconds
with a -5 to +5 standard deviation and a range of 2
to 38 seconds. The estimated average length of time
blood flow to the central nervous system was altered
during the loss and recovery of consciousness was approximately
15 to 20 seconds.
Convulsive activity was observed in 70% of the
G-LOC episodes. The convulsive activity began on the
average 7.7 seconds after the onset of unconsciousness
and lasted 3.9 seconds. The convulsions would cease
with the return of consciousness. Upon recovery of consciousness,
there is a period of relative incapacitation that lasts
on the average about 12 seconds, in which there exists
It is possible
to classify the G-LOC episodes. The G-LOC experience
includes specific visual symptoms (tunnel vision through
blackout), convulsive activity, memory alterations,
dreamlets, and other psychological symptoms. The major,
overall G-LOC experience characteristics that have commonality
with NDEs are shown below.
Characteristics in Common With NDEs
The G-LOC syndrome, however,
suggests that loss of consciousness may be considered
to be an evolutionarily developed protective mechanism
that is evoked in a stepwise sequence in the face of
excessive gravitational stress, well before any pathologic
alterations of the nervous system occurs. Specific states
of consciousness, subconsciousness, and unconsciousness
are induced during loss and recovery of consciousness.
One additional state of consciousness, a state that
corresponds to a critically low range of blood flow,
is where death occurs. The magnitude and duration of
the gravity induced reduction of activity in the cephalic
nervous system determines just how near to the state
of death the individual comes.
brain states, whether resulting from G-LOC or the NDE,
can produce vivid experiences to those who have them.
Some differences between G-LOC and the NDE would be
expected, if for no other reasons than the circumstances
that cause them and the magnitude of the insults to
the nervous system, which are different. The G-LOC syndrome
symptoms are the normal responses of completely healthy
individuals to relatively minimal periods of cephalic
nervous system ischemia. If there are unique characteristics
associated with the NDE, then their isolation would
appear to be facilitated by focusing on what the real
differences are in the individuals, their physical states,
the environmental situation, the type of insult, and
the symptomology between G-LOC and the NDE.
The mind / brain events of the NDE may be at least partially
open to experimental investigation in healthy humans
and not solely upon clinical happenstance. The need
to understand the states of consciousness, subconsciousness,
and unconsciousness, along with the mechanisms that
cause the transition between these states is shared
by those investigating NDEs and G-LOC.
Loss-of-consciousness episodes of all types appear to
have an explainable physiologic basis. They are, therefore,
open for scientific investigation. At least the loss
of consciousness aspect of the NDE, therefore, has a
potentially explainable and experimentally explorable
basis. It would be odd if the symptoms associated with
loss and recovery of consciousness were not part of
the NDE. The fact that many of the NDE symptoms are
very similar to those resulting from loss and recovery
of consciousness suggests that individuals who report
their NDEs have provided accurate symptom descriptions.
This includes those symptoms beyond the scope of G-LOC
experimentation, which are unique to the NDE.