Involuntary memories during severe physical illness or injury

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This paper reports an analysis of the features of 122 cases of persons who became ill or even came close to death, but who survived and afterward reported that during the experience they recalled memories of earlier events in their lives. The life review varied widely in its form; the number of memories recalled ranged from only one or two to the subject's entire life. Moreover, few of the subjects reported seeing earlier events of their life "all at once," which makes the popular phrase "panoramic memory" a misnomer. One group of 54 cases was compared with a group of 54 other cases in which the feature of the life review did not occur. There were no significant differences between the two groups with regard to nine common features. The life review occurs as one feature among several others of equal or greater importance in the total experience. Its function, if any, remains to be elucidated by further research.




Stevenson, I., & Cook, E. W. (1995). Involuntary memories during severe physical illness or injury. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 183(7), 452–458.

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